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VerDuin earns Lakeshore Athena Award
She’s honored for helping families prepare children for kindergarten
Patricia VerDuin, executive director of Ready for School, an initiative of the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation, is the 2012 Lakeshore Athena Award recipient.
VerDuin, of Grand Haven, was honored Tuesday during an awards celebration at Trillium Events in Spring Lake.
Holly Johnson, chair of the Lakeshore Athena program, said 16 nominees were considered for the award.
“We are honored to have so many women from our region that make significant contributions in the communities where they live and work,” she said.
The Lakeshore Athena is a collaboration of the chamber representing Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.
Johnson said VerDuin’s contributions easily met the award’s requirements.
VerDuin has an associate’s paralegal degree, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Grand Valley State University and a master’s in management degree from Aquinas College. She’s currently working on her master of divinity degree at Western Theological Seminary
Before her association with the Ready for School initiative, VerDuin spent time working in the Ottawa County court system and retired in 2008 as director of the 20th Circuit Court’s Juvenile Service and Adult Drug Treatment Court Program.
Ready for School, which started in 2008, is a countywide initiative that helps families prepare their children for kindergarten with a variety of programs and services available beginning at birth.
VerDuin leveraged support from the Kellogg Foundation to make Ready for School a reality in Ottawa County. The organization has served 9,683 local children through its programs and services and has provided tuition assistance for more than 80 children.
VerDuin also has been involved in West Michigan Strategic Alliance’s Talent 2025 and First Steps in Kent County, and was honored this year for her leadership in early childhood education by Michigan Nightlight.
Johnson said the Lakeshore Athena award was created to raise up one outstanding role model each year who exhibits exceptional leadership skills, who has achieved excellence in his or her own business or profession, has served the community in a meaningful way, has assisted other women in reaching their full leadership potential and has made regional contributions.
The recipient is chosen by a selection committee comprised of representatives from the participating chambers and community business leaders.
Previous winners include Grand Valley State University’s Candace Dugan; Elizabeth Rolinski, vice president of operations for advanced energy, Johnson Controls; Blanche Smith, former mayor of Muskegon; Judith Hayner, executive director of Muskegon Museum of Art; Nancy Miller, former dean of social sciences at Hope College; Nancy McCarthy, director/president of Hackley Visiting Services and Hospice in Muskegon; and Nancy Crandall, former mayor of Norton Shores.