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NNA 2012 Notary Of The Year Sheri Kesterke: A Look Back

Kesterke

Updated 12-20-17. As the holiday season approaches, we'd like to share the story of a Notary who embodies the spirit of charity and compassion: 2012 Notary of the Year Sheri Kesterke of Michigan.

A Defining Moment
 

It was one of those defining moments in life.

Sheri Kesterke of Berrien Springs, Michigan, was puttering around the house at 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve 27 years ago when the phone rang.

Her husband, Jim, the long-time chief of the Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department, was working the late shift and had answered a domestic disturbance call. After taking the husband into custody, he realized that the wife and three-year-old daughter were facing a bleak Christmas.

“There was no food in the house, and there were no gifts for the little girl, who was my daughter’s age,” Kesterke recalls. “He wanted to take our Christmas dinner and some of our daughter’s presents so the family would have something.”

Sheri didn’t hesitate. She packed up the gifts and their Christmas turkey and brought them to this family in need.

For most people, this act of Christmas charity would have sufficed. For Kesterke, it was just a beginning. She and her husband started the Christmas Care Program, a community group that collects food and gifts each each holiday season and delivers them to several hundred needy families.

That spirit of community service, which permeates her job as Clerk of the Village of Berrien Springs and her duties as a Notary Public, is the fundamental reason Kesterke was named the NNA’s 2012 Notary of the Year.

“Sheri epitomizes the very best attributes of the office of Notary Public office,” said NNA President and CEO Thomas H. Heymann.

“It’s such an honor to be named the NNA’s Notary of the Year,” Kesterke said. “The NNA helps so many Notaries understand how to do their jobs better, and I am grateful to be part of this community.”

A Lifetime Of Service
 

Soft-spoken yet friendly, Kesterke evinces a quiet grace that quickly wins the respect of everyone she meets. Born and raised in a quaint, rural corner of southwest Michigan, Kesterke has dedicated her life to serving her community. She credits her two-person staff with “helping me to help others.”

Kesterke first went to work in the Village Clerk’s office as part of a student-work program while still in high school about 40 years ago. After graduation, she became the Deputy Clerk and a Notary then eventually went to work as an administrative assistant for the local school district. Years later, her boss ran for Village President and convinced Kesterke to run for Village Clerk.

For nearly a dozen years, she has dedicated her efforts as clerk and a Notary to serving the people of her community.

“Being a Notary is a way I can help our residents complete important documents and help guard against identity theft,” Kesterke said. She goes to people’s homes, hospitals and other locations to notarize documents, and she never charges for her services.

Going The Extra Mile To Educate Notaries
 

Michigan does not require its Notaries to undergo any training, and Kesterke realized early that she needed to educate herself. That’s when she joined the NNA.

“I read every issue of The National Notary magazine from front to back,” Kesterke said. She also requires her staff to read the magazine, even though only one is a Notary. In addition, they have to sign a form, which goes into their employee files, verifying that they have read each issue.

Kesterke goes above and beyond her state’s requirements as a Notary in other important respects. She meticulously maintains a journal of notarial acts and makes sure to obtain a thumbprint of every signer for every notarization.

“I tell people that taking a thumbprint is part of the process I use,” Kesterke said. “It’s my comfort level for identifying people.” That could be a big reason why she’s never had a notarization questioned.

Beyond her immediate notarial practices, Kesterke has taken it upon herself to help educate her fellow clerks. She has delivered training sessions during meetings of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, and has even used her own money to buy and distribute journals of notarial acts.

Recalling a recent training session, Kesterke said, “Some of the clerks were astonished at the liability issues they face.”

Her efforts to help her fellow clerks was one of the reasons she was named 2010 Clerk of the Year by the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.

Outside of work, Kesterke remains committed to a life of community service. She uses two weeks of her vacation each holiday season to run Christmas Care. She recalled delivering gifts and food to one family last Christmas, and the three children were more excited about the food than the gifts. “They were jumping up and down because they had milk.”

Kesterke spends the rest of her vacation helping the Berrien County Youth Fair, and she also volunteers for a number of other groups.

The rest of her time is spent with her husband and two grown children, Nic Kesterke and Jessica Balsis, who live in the area. “My family is my passion.”

For Kesterke, family and community are everything, and giving back to both is her life’s work.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

2 Comments

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Cathi Krstulich

26 Dec 2017

Hard to comment when you can't read the comment because the "leave a comment page covers the entire article when the article opens. Is my computer doing something odd or is it your set-up?

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02 Jan 2018

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