For the past five years, the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids
has awarded the Frederik Meijer Service Above Self Award to an individual with a selfless spirit and philanthropic heart, like the late Fred Meijer.
This year, Marge Wilson, entrepreneur and owner of Marge’s Donut Den
since 1975, has received the sixth Service Above Self Award for her lifelong dedication to serving more than just excellent donuts, but serving a greater community, from Grand Rapids to Nigeria.
“I think it's very humbling,” says Wilson. “When you do things for other people, you don't expect anything back and to be able to get an award that was made by a Rotarian, that makes it even more special.”
Walking into Marge’s is a warm and welcoming experience — one that has left a lasting impact on many. The famous business is more than a great bakery, it is a community hub, a place for local organizations and groups to gather, which is why an extension was added to the building to create more space. From hosting weddings and father-daughter dances to funerals, Marge’s Donut Den is somewhat of a staple in the city of Wyoming.
“We have a lot of business meetings in here,” says Wilson. One of these is the Wyoming business leaders group, which she started years ago. “We still meet once a month and our whole idea is just to do things for the community and we mentor students and help them prepare for applications for jobs.”
Beyond the local community, Wilson has been working to provide clean drinking water to villages in southeast Nigeria through the Samuel Omogo Foundation
. It was founded in 2012 by Wilson and Father Peter Omogo to build water wells. Since then, 368 wells have been built providing access to clean water for over 300,000 people.
Wilson was the first woman to be on the national board of the Retail Bakers Association and she’s been awarded numerous accolades and honors, such as an Apostolic Blessing from the Pope, all of which are displayed on the walls of Marge’s Donut Den.
“I've known Marge for a long time now and I have always known her to be somebody who has been contributing back to the community,” says JoAnn Abraham, co-chair of the event committee. “And I actually nominated her before I knew about the Foundation that she had started a few years back and so when we found that out, it just cinched the whole deal because she embodies what Rotary embodies and the belief and the mission to bring clean water to those less fortunate than us.”
One of the pillars of the Grand Rapids Rotary Club is providing clean drinking water and over the last 10 years, it has granted access to 9,080 individuals around the world.
“I think it's important to give back, but it's also gratifying to do things for other people,” says Wilson.
“Marge Wilson is, in my mind, just a leader of our community and someone that flies under the radar because she doesn't want personal recognition, which makes it even more special,” says Abraham. “That's why she should be receiving the award.”
Photos courtesy of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids