Sally Shaheen Joseph named Sybyl Award winner; ELGA’s Karen Church also honored

Last years’ winner, Ingrid Halling (left) with Sybyl Award recipient Sally Shaheen Joseph (Photo by Doug Pike)

By Jan Worth-Nelson

Sally Shaheen Joseph, a trustee of Mott Community College cited as a “tireless” volunteer whose work has touched almost every corner of Genesee County,  was named the 2019 Sybyl Award winner Tuesday night in a celebration at Factory One.

Karen Church, CEO of ELGA Credit Union, was named the 2019 Lifetime Award winner.

The late Sybyl Atwood (Photo from

The awards recognize a top community volunteer. The celebrates Sybyl Atwood, for many decades a formidable lynchpin of community volunteerism at what was then called Resource Genesee.  As her former boss Dale Weighill, now a vice-president at Mott Community College, has said, among many other contributions if an agency needed volunteers, Atwood recruited and placed them, and found help for those in need.  When she died at 72 in 2007, she was lauded as “the grande dame of Flint area charity work.”

The list of Shaheen Joseph’s contributions to the community is long and detailed, giving evidence of five decades of committed service in almost every corner of the community while raising a family and 30 years of practicing law.

First elected to the MCC board of trustees in November, 2007, she was reelected to a second term in 2014.  She is an advisory board member of the Flint Area Salvation Army, Genesee Valley Rotary, and the Executive Board of the Arab-American Institute, as well as its National Policy Council and National Leadership Council.

As the citation for Shaheen Joseph’s nomination described, “Coming from a time, and a cultural heritage that did not encourage her to get an education, Sally first earned her Associate’s degree from Mott Community College (she actually earned three Associate’s degrees).

Soon after she received her law degree, Shaheen Joseph’s husband died, leaving her to raise five children on her own.   She has reflected, according to the citation, that  “the opportunities given to her changed her life, and the lives of her children. As a result, she has dedicated much of her life’s work to ensuring that other women have the same opportunities for education and employment by serving as a strong advocate for affirmative action and women’s rights.”

She has served as a board member of the Genesee County YWCA, the Michigan Women’s Commission -appointed by both Governors Granholm and Snyder, the Michigan Women’s Foundation, and the Fair Winds Council of the Girl Scouts of America.

Now in her 80’s,  Shaheen Joseph goes to Mexico annually with Dr. Bradley Habermehl, of the Burton Rotary Club, as part of the Rotary Preventable Blindness initiative.

“Everything Sally touches is imbued with her passion for helping others and her gratitude for all that she has been given. She is the embodiment of “do unto others …” Like Sybyl Atwood, Sally’s life is an example we can all aspire to,” the citation stated.

The other nominees were April Cook Hawking of Prince of Peace Church; Tracy Palmer, Trendsetters Production; Lynn Williams, Community Foundation of Greater Flint; Heather Burnash, Law Offices of Heather Burnash, LLC;  Laura Miller, A Friend in US Flint Strong;  Steven C. Low, Flint Jewish Federation; Amy Hovey, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The Sybyl Awards program almost ended last year when, as committee member Dale Weighill stated the awards program work “was shouldered by a small volunteer committee. Unless we can find an institutional home for the award, it’s not feasible for just a few people to run what amounts to a major special event each year.”  The Hurley Foundation stepped in to provide the institutional home and rescued the yearly event.

EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at


Author: East Village Magazine

A Non-profit, Community News Magazine Since 1976

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