Alumni Service Award: Brenda Kniebes
Brenda Kniebes, a lifelong resident of the area who grew up in Coloma, has taught elementary school at Decatur Public Schools for more than thirty years, first music classes and now second grade. She doesn’t leave her calling at the school door, though. She continues teaching and mentoring children in after-school programs, encouraging their interest in music and the arts, and providing an opportunity to learn about horses and ponies on her farm.
Brenda helps organize the Decatur Van Buren/Cass County Girls on the Run program. Each year, more than 500 3rd, 4th, and 5th-grade girls participate in the after-school program that encourages healthy values and goals. In the spring, the program culminates with a 5K fun run.
Brenda and her husband have seven horses – four drafts and three ponies – and, as sponsors of the Four Flags 4-H club, Brenda mentors 4-H members in handling the responsibility of a horse. She also sponsors ponies for the Berrien County We Can Ride 4-H program. The Kniebes’ take their horses to St. Joseph in the summers to drive visitors downtown in the trolley.
In 2002, Brenda started Soup Suppers in Coloma as a way to raise money for the North Berrien Food Pantry. Up to one hundred people attend each of nine suppers throughout the year at the Coloma Senior Center. The suppers have raised a total of $50,000 and have become an integral part of the pantry’s funding.
The Alumni Service Award was presented to Brenda Kniebes in 2014.