For Sheri Circele, Saturday mornings have been a time for giving back.  

As a board member and one of the founders of Bountiful Harvest Food Pantry in Livingston County, Circele's volunteering helps the pantry provide a free, full meal to more than a hundred clients every Saturday. She can be found either in the pantry's kitchen or behind the scenes, writing volunteer newsletters and keeping the organization's statistics up-to-date.

Depending on the pantry's available supplies, the balanced meal often includes eggs, pancakes, a meat and fruit.

"For some of the people that come in, this is the only hot meal they get that week," Circele says.

Clients of the volunteer-run Bountiful Harvest can shop in the pantry twice a month, but may come every Saturday for the hot breakfast. The pantry provides food and clothing to any family or individual in the area in need.

Circele was inspired to co-found the food pantry with members of her church in 2011, during the two years that she was unemployed.

"I had the time, and I felt that I was able to give back to the community at the same time," she says.

Circele has been moved and inspired by the individual experiences of the food pantry's clients.

"I believe that you can learn something from every single person on this earth. We have one lady who comes in, and she's living on $300 a month from Social Security. She and her friends come in every Saturday, beautifully dressed, they sit and chat over a hot meal and a cup of coffee, and that's their weekly outing. There are nice, positive experiences like that."

Circele received her business degree in human resources from UM-Flint in 2008 and worked in the human resources field for 15 years. Since 2012, she has been working as student administrative assistant associate for the Department of Psychology.

In her role, Circele works primarily with first-year students to make sure that the department's Psychology Subject Pool functions smoothly. Through the subject pool, students in introductory psychology courses participate in psychology research studies as an experiential learning requirement.

With 1,500-1,800 first-year students enrolling in introductory psychology courses during fall and winter terms, Circele helps each one — as well as the faculty members and graduate students who run the studies — navigate the process to fulfill their requirement. From class visits to individual advising and answering student e-mails, Circele is there to help every step of the way.

"I like working with the students," she says. "I like helping people through little crises that feel earthshattering. And it's a great department.

"No one's afraid to ask for help. There's a lot of teamwork."

Circele's credentials don't stop at community volunteer work and student support. She's also a first-degree black belt in tae kwon do. However, when Circele began classes with her then-7-year-old daughter, she couldn't complete even one push-up.

"I wasn't very athletic when I started. I tried to do a push-up and I started laughing because nothing happened," Circele recalls. Four years later, she could complete 40 regular push-ups with no problem.

"The teachers would ask the students who they thought had improved more — the person that could do 20 push-ups and then improved to be able to do 50, or the person who couldn't do any push-ups at all, and then improved to do one. Personal growth is the most important."

Article "Spotlight: Sheri Circele" from The University Record.