Whoever said age is just a number may have had Jim Polet in mind. This 87-year-old member of Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church (Holland, Mich.) was named Senior Volunteer of the Year at the 2016 Governor’s Service Awards. He was honored by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and other organizations.
“It was a very humbling experience,” Polet said, “because I had no idea of the [extent of] volunteerism in the state. I’m convinced a lot of things on the local level simply wouldn’t happen without volunteers.”
Polet was honored alongside three other seniors as well as honorees in a handful of other individual and group categories, including youth and lifetime achievement awards.
Stacey Korecki, volunteer manager for Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, where Polet has volunteered since 2003, nominated him for the award. “He is an integral member of our volunteer team,” she commented. “We feel blessed that Jim has chosen to work with us.”
Polet began volunteering in the Holland community with friends from church after he retired in 1993. He volunteered for several years for a local nonprofit, Jubilee Ministries, and he spent two memorable weeks serving with International Aid in New York City after 9/11.
Currently he works at Habitat three full days a week, framing, drywalling, painting, hanging siding, laying flooring—just about anything aside from electrical wiring, pouring cement, and roofing. He estimates he and his teammates build about four houses a year.
“I personally really enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “The work I do with Habitat is quite gratifying because you’re elevating people on the fringes of society. They get to buy a home and get established. It’s such a good cause.” Polet’s service comes as a natural outgrowth of his faith. It is part of living in community with others, part of loving one’s neighbor as yourself, he said.
The octogenarian is quick to point out that this award is not about him but is about all the many volunteers all over the state, many of whom he believes are more deserving than he is. “If this can serve as an example and encourage other people to get involved, then it’s worthwhile,” he said.