Paula Schriemer winner of the 2021 Munn Award

Left to right: Paula Schriemer and Danna Downing.

Each year the Vicksburg Rotary Club identifies a resident from greater Vicksburg, a non-Rotarian who has made a major commitment to improving life in the Vicksburg area, to become a Rotary Mercer Munn Fellow.

This year’s recipient is Dr. Paula Schriemer. Her commitment includes a major role in creating Generous Hands, a Vicksburg non-profit agency which provides food packs for families with children on free and reduced school-lunch plans to help them get through the weekends.

In 2004, Dr. Schriemer was part of a 10-women Bible study group in search of a service project. The group was concerned about food scarcity issues members saw in the community and committed to trying to do something about the problem. Taking the name Generous Hands, it focused on providing and distributing the food packs. Under Paula’s leadership, members started small, distributing Friday Packs from a closet at Sunset Elementary.

Fast-forward to 2021 and Generous Hands is feeding 246 students each week across the Vicksburg Community Schools District. Ultimately Generous Hands won an award for Best New Non-Profit from Western Michigan University’s Non-profit Student Association and a Star Award from United Way.

She is married to Dr. David Schriemer; together they have three adult children: Daniel, Clara, and Anna. Paula grew up in suburban Detroit with her parents and two younger sisters. Upon graduation from high school, Paula was one of 50 persons selected for a six-year Integrated Premedical/Medical program at the University of Michigan.

She met her husband in her fourth year of the program. She was focused on anesthesiology; he was aiming to practice family medicine. Over three weeks in May and June of 1985, she and David got married, honeymooned, graduated from medical school and relocated to Charlottesville, Va. to start their residency programs.

The couple moved to Vicksburg in 1989. She worked full-time at Kalamazoo Anesthesiology for two years until their first child, Daniel, was born. Ever since, she has worked some formulation of part-time work and time raising their children. “Working made me a nicer mommy,” she said.

“Living in Vicksburg has been a joy,” Paula added. She and her family have loved living on the lake and has appreciated the “top-notch” school district. She believes residents value quality community life and Vicksburg is a place where “we take good care of our own.”

“Paula is a savvy woman,” according to Jan Modderman-Hui, current president of Generous Hands. “There is a fire burning inside her and it is great to work beside her fighting for justice and fairness to those who have a hardscrabble life,” she adds.

Sheri Louis, executive director at Generous Hands, said that like Mercer Munn, “Service Above Self” is also a way of life for Paula Schriemer. “Whether it is in her professional life showing empathy and compassion to her patients, serving in her church, or staying attentive to the needs of children in our community who face food insecurity, Paula goes above and beyond in her dedication to making things better.”

Since Paula has passed the gavel to Jan Modderman-Hui she has been instrumental in every new project, including The Period Project, which provides personal hygiene supplies for young women and their families, and The Blessing Boxes, which have been installed at Generous Hands and at a local housing location. Blessing Boxes provide healthy food on an as-needed basis. Paula also leads board education activities at the agency and is an accessible and supportive mentor wherever she is in the community.

The mission of Generous Hands is an easy sell,” Paula said. “Who could say NO to “can you help feed hungry kids in Vicksburg?” The organization’s stunning outcomes prove that virtually no one can say no.

When asked why she was prompted to work on Generous Hands, Paula ticked off five reasons:

• “It was an obvious need in the community.

• “It was a group project with people I loved.

• “I am very goal-directed. All through my life I have worked for long-term goals and pushed through the hard parts, trusting help would be given when needed.

• “As a mom, the issue of children’s health has been laid on my heart, no matter whose kids they are.

• “Early in my medical training ‘the patient comes first’ was instilled in me. That means no matter how you feel – tired, hungry, whatever – you still do your best to care for the person in front of you. That has spilled over into other facets of my life.”

The club will invest $500 in her honor into its endowment fund held with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

In the 62 years that Mercer Munn spent in the Vicksburg club, he exemplified all that is best in Rotary. To him “Service above Self” was not a slogan; it was simply a way of life. It was impossible to separate Mercer’s Christian humility and compassion from his Rotary determination. If there was something in our community to be fixed, helped, or healed, you would usually find that Mercer Munn was part of the solution. Munn was a special person, respected and treasured by all who knew him. He continues to set the bar for community involvement long past his time with us. The Mercer Munn Fellow award continues to honor his leadership and inspire all who live in the Vicksburg community.

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