Grande Mere Inn wins statewide service award

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE – Volunteering has become synonymous with the Grande Mere Inn over the last few decades.

On Monday, the Stevensville business was recognized for its volunteering efforts by Gov. Rick Snyder, who presented the Inn with the Corporate Community Leader Award.

The award honors businesses that demonstrate excellent corporate citizenship by giving back to their community through volunteer programs, monetary contributions, in-kind gifts and employee-driven volunteer service.

Charley Racine, the Inn’s current owner, went to the award ceremony in Grand Rapids with his wife and his mother, who is one of the original owners of Grande Mere.

“The governor gave a speech about Michigan and everyone giving back,” Racine said. “We were very shocked just because of who we were up against.”

The other finalists included General Motors Foundation in Detroit, Farmers Insurance in Grand Rapids, MSU Federal Credit Union in Lansing and the NSF International in Ann Arbor.

The Grande Mere Inn in Stevensville, known as a family-owned and operated restaurant, is in the business of providing food not just to paying customers, but to various local organizations and events.

Racine said he thought it was funny when he was standing in line with the heads of corporations who had no idea what the Grande Mere Inn was.

“The woman from General Motors asked where we were from,” he said. “One of the managers asked us how many restaurants we owned and we told them just the one. They were so surprised. One lady was talking about how she has to deal with a budget of $35 million.”

By the end of the two-hour ceremony, Racine left with a glass trophy and a framed certificate from the state.

Early beginnings

The Grande Mere Inn began sharing food and the talents of their 45 staff members as a way to be involved in the community after opening in 1980.

Ongoing donations included preparing and serving a full dinner to the Juvenile Center Christmas Party, hosting the annual meeting of the Child and Family Services of Michigan, preparing and delivering Thanksgiving dinners for both the local soup kitchen and a runaway shelter, and donating a three-course lunch for students in the Alternate Education Program followed by a tour of the restaurant and discussion of the restaurant business as a career choice.

They also host an annual fundraiser for the Readiness Center – opening on their day off, donating the food and drinks, and with staff donating their service.

This event has raised $536,000 over the course of 17 years.

Grande Mere Inn also donates food, staff labor or gift certificates to many other organizations each year.

“It’s neat that our little community came together,” Racine said. “We’ve had some very loyal customers and we appreciate everything that goes on. Now that my parents have retired, I want to continue to do our part in the area.”

The Governor’s Service Award ceremony is a statewide recognition event acknowledging the contributions made by Michigan volunteers. The event is coordinated by the Michigan Community Service Commission, the state’s lead agency on volunteerism.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 1, 2015)

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