GRAND RAPIDS — Since he was just two years old, William T. Ham has called Greenville home.
Throughout his years as a member of the community he has strived to find ways to give back to his hometown in the biggest and smallest ways manageable.
On Saturday night, in front of hundreds of friends and close family members, Ham was recognized for his generous efforts of philanthropy as the recipient of the annual 2012 Fred and Lena Meijer Spirit of Caring Award.
“I stand before you as a humbled but honored man,” Ham said after receiving a rousing applause from the several hundred guests in attendance at the annual “Many Hearts One Mission” charity ball and auction at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. “I remember (my) mom and dad teaching the art of giving. My father always said, if you surround yourself with great people, good things will happen. For that, I have been very blessed.”
According to United Memorial Foundation Executive Director Shirley Hayes, the criteria for the award includes someone who “must demonstrate compassion, kindheartedness, and a devotion to help others, just as Fred and Lena (Meijer) have for decades.”
Ham currently serves on the Spectrum Health United Memorial Foundation Board as past chairman of the grants committee, on the executive committee as the liaison from the hospital board for United/Kelsey and as acting chairman of the finance committee. He also serves on the Greenville Area Community Foundation Board as development chairman and is a Montcalm Community College Foundation Board member.
A graduate of Michigan Technological University, Ham owned Greenville Printing Co. with his partner and brother-in-law Don Gibbs for more than 32 years before retiring three and a half years ago.
After thanking everyone in attendance, including his wife, Peggy, son Bill and his wife Karen and daughter Allyson and her husband Matt Fazzi, Ham spoke about the importance of giving back to the community he loves dearly.
‘You have to give back to your community, it’s the backbone,” he said. “If you don’t have good schools, good hospitals and good community service, you have nothing. It’s the only way to keep Greenville growing. We’ve been through a lot in our small community and it’s important to support these kinds of things.”
For Allyson, it was an emotional night seeing her father honored for years of philanthropic activity, and she reflected on memories from her childhood.
“He had woken every day to spend his day working from early morning to late at night as the rest of the family played games, watched TV or read books,” she said. “He often had evening meetings with various local groups because he has always believed in giving back to the community, of which he is so proud of.”
Allyson said most importantly, his generosity and attention to the community never interfered with time spent with the family.
“Dad has never neglected our family while accomplishing these things,” she said. “In fact, he’s always seemed to make it work, even if that meant umpiring my junior high softball games in a two-piece suit.”
Dr. Roger Coles, who was the 2011 recipient of the Fred and Lena Meijer Spirit of Caring Award, said Ham couldn’t have been more deserving of this year’s award.
“To receive an award that is named after Fred and Lena Meijer, because of the example they set for all of us, is truly humbling and a distinct honor,” he said. “(Ham) was unanimously nominated to receive the award by his peers on the foundation board, because Bill has certainly exemplified the same spirit of caring the Meijers have demonstrated over the decades.”