Phil Lawicki is only 32, but he has spent much of his life helping others. It began when he was 13 or 14 and would meet his sister Jennifer, who has severe cerebral palsy, at the school bus. Both his parents worked, so he would come straight home after school, help get her off the bus and into the house, and sometimes even make her dinner.
“I just love her to pieces,” says Phil, who describes himself as very family-oriented. He even repeated his senior year of high school when his family had to move in order to get Jennifer into a safer high school. “I would do it again in a minute for her,” he says.
He did eventually head off to a technical college in Plainwell, outside Kalamazoo. However, a streak of bad luck combined with the recession meant he struggled to find a job he could keep. He needed something to do and dropped off a resume at the Livonia YMCA.
“Julie (volunteer coordinator Julie Allen) called, and it literally saved my life,” he says. He’s an important part of the Y now, helping with laundry and some maintenance tasks. “I started two weeks before Christmas last year, and I have never been happier,” he says. For her part, Julie says “When I thank Phil for his attitude and dedication, he thanks me.”
Phil still helps care for his sister, and enjoys watching hockey and working with electronics in his spare time. He’s also quite likely the only volunteer at the Livonia Y to have served lunch to Bill Clinton.
He took a cooking class in high school, as, he admits with a smile, a way to meet girls. During his reelection campaign, Clinton visited his school and had lunch there. Phil, with his outgoing personality, was selected to greet the president and serve him lunch. Clinton shook his hand and tipped Phil a dollar. “I told everyone, hey, he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like us,” he says, adding, “The difference is, when he’s doing it he’s running the country.”
Phil has found the Y a very welcoming place. “I love it…it’s a great place, and I encourage everyone to join,” he says.