2021 Recipient Bios

THE PEANUT BARREL

Since opening in 1973, The Peanut Barrel has established itself as a favorite neighborhood bar and restaurant in the East Lansing community. The Peanut Barrel has been serving up burgers, sandwiches and brews to customers for more than 45 years, and when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, owners Joe and Jennifer Bell made sure their business didn’t stop. With safety in mind, the Bells took every necessary step to keep The Peanut Barrel operating during an incredibly difficult year. This included offering curbside pickup, keeping tables at a safe distance, requiring patrons to wear a mask when leaving their table, maintaining cleanliness and creating no-contact menus. Customers were also able to choose from a number of fun, new To-Go Survival Kits on the menu and were able to sit outside and enjoy The Peanut Barrel’s popular patio during the winter season thanks to an investment in outdoor heaters. The Peanut Barrel set an example of what it takes to keep a business, its employees and its customers safe during a public health crisis, while also maintaining a spirit of positivity and support for neighboring downtown businesses. In the best and worst of times, The Peanut Barrel has continued to be an upstanding, well-run business in the City of East Lansing that can be counted on for exceptional service, great food and an enjoyable customer experience.

DIANA TARPOFF

Diana Tarpoff believes “you are your demonstration,” and during her many years in East Lansing, she has demonstrated she is an educator, leader, facilitator, connector and uplifter to the core of her being.Tarpoff has been a teacher and academic coach for more than 40 years, while also dedicating much of her time contributing to the East Lansing community. In 1984, Tarpoff founded and served as president of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Educational Foundation, which later evolved into the East Lansing Educational Foundation (ELEF). After her eldest daughter tragically passed away, Tarpoff worked to create a foundation-sponsored program in her memory: the “Sarah Tarpoff Creative Writing Award.” For more than 30 years, the “Sarah Tarpoff Creative Writing Award” has encouraged creative writing within the East Lansing community and school district in honor of Sarah’s love for writing and drawing. 

Tarpoff was also part of a group of committed volunteers who came together to create Ele’s Place, a nonprofit that has worked for many years to ensure no child grieves alone after experiencing a death in their lives. Additionally, she has been involved with several community organizations, including the Junior League of Lansing, the R.E. Olds Foundation, the Marriott Vacation Club International, the Family Foundation for Michigan and the Red Cross Tiffany Circle of Michigan. 

As her nominator noted, Tarpoff’s deepest wish is for all to “pass acts of kindness forward.” With her commitment to helping others, Tarpoff is sure to inspire others to help make this wish come true. 

MAUREEN MCCABE-POWER

Maureen McCabe-Power has volunteered significant amounts of her time to the Friends of the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) and the Pinecrest Neighborhood Association (PNA), most recently working to usher the Friends of ELPL through the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The closing of the library meant the closing of Marsha’s Friendshop, which is the main funding mechanism for the Friends of ELPL. Power’s creative leadership led to innovative methods to continue fundraising for the library, including two parking lot tailgate sales for residents to purchase books at a low price and the sewing of masks to sell to community members.

Since she and her late husband Don moved to Blanchette Drive in 1991, Power has demonstrated an unwavering passion and commitment to creating a healthy and vibrant community in East Lansing and, on the most local level, she is recognized by many as a “good neighbor.” She has served as a role model for new residents of the Pinecrest Neighborhood and has worked to get to know and make all neighbors feel welcome and connected to their other neighbors. One of her nominators put it best by calling her a “beacon of connection” for the neighbors on her street. In 2020, she also stepped in to serve as the interim board secretary for PNA at a time of great need and has been a tremendous asset to the neighborhood association, especially when it comes to historical knowledge of the Pinecrest Neighborhood.

When it comes to the Friends of ELPL, Power has been dubbed by those who nominated her as a “fearless leader” and “energizer bunny,” due to her slight stature and zest for jumping right in to make plans and get things done. She is estimated to work more than 30 volunteer hours per week as the current president of the Friends, with her work consisting of managing the books and finances, overseeing the nuts and bolts of the day-to-day activities of the organization, recruiting and scheduling volunteers and planning and coordinating fundraising events. Through her tireless efforts, Power has made significant, tangible contributions to the beloved East Lansing Public Library and helped to ensure its long-term viability.

ANDREW BERNARD WELLS

Andrew Bernard Wells is an experienced, dedicated educator and administrator with the East Lansing Public Schools who is currently serving as the first African American principal at East Lansing High School. Wells has an “open door” policy for his students, staff, parents and community stakeholders, and has served as a great example of strong leadership for a whole new generation. He has placed a spotlight on African American leaders in secondary education and has continued to work with the ELPS Board of Education to bring diversity and anti-racist education to school curriculums. 

Wells received his early education at ELPS, having attended Hannah Middle School and later graduating from East Lansing High School in the Class of 1976. He holds a Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts and education specialist degrees from Michigan State University (MSU) and began his career at ELPS as a district community liaison officer, providing support for at-risk high school students. From there, he progressed to become an East Lansing High School coach, athletic director, ELHS associate principal and the principal of Whitehills Elementary School and Glencairn Elementary School. His administrative and leadership abilities have gained him the respect of the ELPS superintendent, school board members, students, parents and teachers throughout the district. 

In addition to his full-time, formal duties, Wells has served ELPS in many other ways, from serving as a mentor for high school students to serving as the administration representative for labor relations and serving on numerous interview and hiring committees. He has also served as the ELHS representative to the City of East Lansing’s Youth Action Team, on the steering committee for the East Lansing Educational Foundation and as a member of the ELPS Achievement Gap Task Force. During his time with ELPS, Wells has been nominated for Regional Athletic Director of the Year and received the ELPS Workplace Excellence Award.  Wells has also served as a guest lecturer at Michigan State University in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and has contributed to excellence in the community by previously volunteering for organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters Lansing and the Black Child & Family Institute.