Michael J. Griffin has humble beginnings that sound familiar to many.

He always had a desire to go into education but when he started college, he was encouraged to work toward a degree in business administration. His passion for teaching won him over in his junior year and he switched majors to Business Education. He married his wife Kim in 1983 and graduated in 1985 and discovered no Business Education positions were available. Therefore, he took a job in restaurant management and worked long grueling hours until he was offered a starting position at a local bank. His work ethic is seen in his work in the community as well.

In his own words, “When I hear ‘spirit,’ I think team spirit, I think community spirit” and it’s clear by his 32 years in banking and countless community involvement, such as Past President of the Rotary Club of Cleveland, Past Board Chair of the United Way of the Ocoee Region, Chairman of Cleveland State Community College Board of Trustees, Executive Board member of Thrive Regional Partnership, Past Board Chair for Erlanger Hospital Board of Trustees and Past President of Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, UTC Alumni Board and the Museum Center at Five Points. He also served as President of the Leadership Chattanooga Alumni Association and was the recipient of the Servant Leader Award from Tennessee Association of Community Leadership in 2010. In 2021, he was presented with the William F. Johnson United Way Community Service Award which is the highest accolade for volunteerism in the United Way of the Ocoee Region.

With so many achievements, Mike pursued all these opportunities by saying, “I kind of jumped in head first and didn’t look back.” Even when retiring in the future he states, “I probably won’t do as much [as I do now] but I’ll definitely want to stay involved.”

Mike’s mentality stems from his father’s teaching him to tithe. “He would always say, you can’t outgive God and anything you give, you’ll get back. I always believed in what he said and always wrote the tithe check first, even when money was tight. That’s the way I was brought up and feel the same way about community service. I feel like anything you give, whether it be your time as a volunteer or a financial donation, will always come back to you in some way. It may be a friendship or new connection or just the satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life.

And it did.

His volunteer work in this community is seen by everyone who meets him. Having gone from working 70 hours a week to the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce President, people have seen his spiritedness over hs career and have encouraged him for various greater opportunities. Mike has been a Clevlander for 11 years and it’s mainly his passion for connecting people, teaching and volunteering that has gotten him where he is today. When he says, “there is nothing that I want, or need, that I can’t get here in Cleveland. It’s the full package. And yet, it has a small-town feel,” it can mean the same for you.

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Aniela Suit is a junior at Lee University majoring in Public Relations. She served her internship in the Spring 2023 Semester with Tourism Development of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. Her hometown is Johnson City, Tennessee.