In 2026, Fremont Area Community Foundation will celebrate 75 years of generosity and impact in Newaygo County. As part of this milestone anniversary, we are looking for 75 new people who want to support the community they love both today and into the future.

These people are emerging philanthropists–passionate, driven, and committed to making lasting change in our community. As we draw closer to our 75th anniversary, this group will play a vital role in building the future of Newaygo County.

To join Our Next 75, we only ask three simple things:

1. Give today

Establish a named fund or make an annual gift of $250 or more to an endowed fund at the Community Foundation.

2. Give tomorrow

Include the Community Foundation in your estate plan.

3. Share your story

Share with us why you chose to give back to the community.

 

Dawn Williams: First Member of Our Next 75

At age 15, Dawn Williams was the Hair Station’s first receptionist. Today she’s the Fremont salon’s owner. Along with her daughter Morgan, Dawn had an idea to create a fund that would help cosmetology students at the Newaygo County Career-Tech Center pay for tests and equipment they need to get started in their careers. Using the Build-a-Fund program, the Hair Station Fund is steadily growing with help from staff and clients.

Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) member Emma Kartes was recently selected to be the first youth member of Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Distribution Committee.

Kartes was chosen by YAC leadership and will join a group of Community Foundation trustees who review staff grant research and make grant decisions and recommendations to the full Board of Trustees. Last year, the Community Foundation awarded $5.7 million through its two community grant rounds to support more than 100 local programs.

YAC leaders and advisors developed the idea to include a YAC member on the Distribution Committee as a way to provide a greater youth perspective on the Community Foundation’s grantmaking and to increase YAC’s understanding of the Community Foundation’s work.

Currently finishing her sophomore year at Fremont High School, Kartes has been a YAC member for two years. In addition to her experience in reviewing YAC grants and conducting site visits, Kartes has impressed YAC leaders with her responsibility, professionalism, and thoughtful leadership.

“I’m interested in and willing to give back to the community that continues to provide so much for me,” said Kartes, who added that she is honored to be the first YAC member to serve on the Distribution Committee. “I’m excited to be able to start off and set a good example for the YAC members who will serve in the future.”

Kickstart to Career Newaygo County—a joint program of Fremont Area Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank—launched on March 22 at the Neway Center in Newaygo. The program is designed to build aspirations, encourage savings, increase financial education, and assist with college or career expenses after high school.

Starting in the fall of 2018, every kindergarten student in Newaygo County will have the opportunity to be the beneficiary of an account at ChoiceOne, opened with a $50 deposit from the Community Foundation.

Students will be able to earn additional contributions and families can make deposits at any time. Upon graduating from high school, students can use their accounts to help pay for post-secondary education and career-related expenses such as tuition, books, tools, or training.

At the launch event, staff and board representatives from the Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank were joined by local school superintendents, administrators, and school board members. The audience was greeted by Carla Roberts, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, and Kelly Potes, president and CEO of ChoiceOne Bank.

“This is a special day,” said Roberts. “The tool is a children’s savings account program, but it’s much more than that. Research shows that having even a relatively small amount of savings has a significant impact on the way a child thinks about and prepares for their future. Children with savings accounts have better math and reading scores, develop greater expectations for themselves, and are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college.”

Potes explained that in addition to opening savings accounts, ChoiceOne will provide the technology for families to monitor accounts online and partner with local school districts to provide financial literacy education in classrooms.

“We’re really excited,” said Potes. “As a father of five kids who are now grown up and out of school, I can attest to the fact that saving for college and career is really important. It’s a great honor for us to help Fremont Area Community Foundation and families in the community.”

Preschool students from the Neway Center—who will be among the first group to receive savings accounts—and their teachers also participated. Students wrote and illustrated a book about saving money that was presented to the group. They also each received a piggy bank to begin saving for their own accounts. After the presentation, school officials signed a memorandum of understanding to certify their district’s participation in Kickstart to Career. Participating districts are Big Jackson Public Schools, Fremont Christian School, Fremont Public Schools, Grant Christian School, Grant Public Schools, Hesperia Community Schools, Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, Newaygo Public Schools, and White Cloud Public Schools.

Lynne Robinson, a retired educator and former Community Foundation trustee, remarked on the impact of the event on the students who participated.

“There was a room full of people these kids don’t know and might not ever see again, but these kids understand now that somebody cared enough about them that they gave money to start them on a path to success,” said Robinson. “That has an impact. This is the beginning of that tie to the community as they grow up.”

In December, Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees approved Kickstart to Career as a 10-cohort pilot program, including students entering kindergarten from 2018 through 2027. The program will serve approximately 550 children in the first year and more than 7,000 students total. Fremont Area Community Foundation expects to make more than $3.4 million in deposits during this time.

There are currently 54 child savings account programs nationwide with more than 380,000 children participating. In Michigan, Barry County and Lansing have children’s savings account programs. Muskegon County is slated to launch theirs in 2018.

For more information about Kickstart to Career Newaygo County, visit kickstarttocareer.org.

More than 125 representatives from local nonprofit organizations attended a January 17 Grantee Workshop hosted by Fremont Area Community Foundation. Presenters included staff and trustees from the Community Foundation as well as representatives from The Right Place and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Attendees were introduced to the Newaygo County Area Dashboard, a new measurement tool that will track the area’s growth and development in several key areas. The Community Foundation worked with The Right Place to develop the tool that will track indicators such as labor force participation rate, third grade reading level, and high school graduation rate.

Other workshop sessions gave an overview of the grantmaking process, online system, new policies, and grant guidelines for each focus area. A new core capacity and financial health assessment tool, developed in partnership with the Johnson Center, was also shared.

With such a great turnout, the workshop was a valuable opportunity for staff and trustees to interact with grantees from around the county.

“We’re so grateful to all of our community partners who attended the workshop,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “This was a great opportunity to gather together and talk about the ways we can collaborate for the greatest possible impact.”

Lisa Daniell, director of the Volunteer Resource Center at TrueNorth Community Services, attended the workshop and said attendees came away with a better understanding of the Community Foundation’s goals.

“This transparency is beneficial for local programs to plan and strategize within their own programs to determine how they best align for potential future funding,” said Daniell. “I appreciated all the work that went into making the day a great success.”

More than 50 Community Foundation donors gathered for the annual Fall Donors Luncheon at the Stone Lodge on October 30. Along with time for catching up and conversation, the luncheon program focused on recent activities in the area of community and economic development.

Carla Roberts, FACF president and CEO, shared that when the organization conducted a community needs assessment in 2016 in Newaygo County and affiliate counties of Mecosta, Lake, and Osceola, a common theme rose to the top.

“Across all four counties, the key concerns identified by respondents focused on jobs and the economy,” said Roberts. “We considered these results as an affirmation of the direction we had been heading in since 2011 when we began to focus on education, prosperity, and a vibrant economy. All of these efforts are focused on talent development and making sure that we have the workforce we will need for the future.”

Roberts summarized some of the Community Foundation’s recent work to support entrepreneurship and small business development as well as efforts to create a Newaygo County Employer Resource Network (ERN). She then introduced James Vander Hulst, president and CEO of Michigan ERN.

ERNs, explained Vander Hulst, are networks of employers who come together to grapple with issues like turnover and employee retention. Employers identify common issues and share best practices. A key component of ERNs is hiring a success coach who spends time at each company and acts as an advocate for employees. Coaches help identify and find solutions to issues that may prevent an employee from making it to work and being successful.

“If you believe your employees are your greatest asset, how are you creating a culture that keeps them coming back?” asked Vander Hulst.

Guests then heard from Scott Faulkner, a longtime advocate of tourism in Newaygo County who has served as a leader in organizations like River Country Chamber of Commerce, Newaygo Nationals Association, and the Newaygo County Tourism Council.

Faulkner shared updates on the development of The Dragon, a 48-mile trail around Hardy Pond. When completed, the trail will span four townships and two counties and will feature 39 water crossings.

“It should be an incredible draw for mountain bikers and pedestrians,” said Faulkner, who estimates that the trail will bring in at least $4 million in revenue. “It will be the only one like it in North America.”

At their annual meeting on June 15, the members of Fremont Area Community Foundation elected two new trustees to the Community Foundation board.

William Leaver and Peggy Rossler were elected to join 13 other trustees who guide the Community Foundation’s operations, strategic direction, and grant allocations.

Leaver grew up in Fremont and had a 40-year career in hospital administration. He retired as president and CEO of UnityPoint Health in Iowa and he and his wife Jeanne returned to Newaygo County. They share an interest in supporting vulnerable families and helping to raise local people out of poverty.

Leaver noted that involvement in the Community Foundation allows him to build on his family’s efforts in a more organized way.

“I see the opportunity through Fremont Area Community Foundation,” said Leaver. “I have always been impressed by the effect the Community Foundation has on the broader community. I want to contribute in a positive way and to share my expertise. My goal is to be supportive in a way that’s helpful and moves the organization forward.”

Rossler came to Newaygo County in the early 1980s when her husband took a job as a school administrator in White Cloud. They raised their three sons in the area and Rossler worked in special education for Newaygo schools. She later worked as a teacher and consultant for West Shore Educational Service District.

“I have a heart for education, particularly for early and special education,” said Rossler, who will also serve on the Amazing X Charitable Trust board. “I am particularly interested in supporting families with young children as they provide opportunities to develop early literacy skills.”

Added Rossler, “I’m very honored and very happy to be part of this organization I’ve respected for so long. I look forward to having a voice to make a positive impact in all of our communities in Newaygo County.”

Leaver and Rossler fill vacancies left by retiring trustees Dr. Robert Clouse and William Johnson.

“We are so grateful for the years of faithful service given to the Community Foundation by our departing trustees,” said Carla Roberts, FACF president and CEO. “And we are excited to welcome Peggy and William. Their experience, expertise, and commitment to Newaygo County will be great additions to our board.”

Board officers were also elected at the annual business meeting. Lindsay Hager will continue as chair, and Cathy Kissinger will continue to serve as vice chair. William Alsover was elected as treasurer, and Lola Harmon-Ramsey will be secretary.

Local residents looking to become more involved in their community are invited to Nonprofit Speed Dating on May 16 at the Stone Lodge in Fremont.

Through a series of informal chats with nonprofit organizations in a fun atmosphere, individuals will get a better picture of what each nonprofit does and where their personal skills and talents might be needed most.

Refreshments will be provided and attendees will rotate among tables staffed by representatives from a variety of local nonprofits. They will learn more about the organizations’ goals and needs and how their missions and priorities may match up.

The free event is hosted by Fremont Area Community Foundation in partnership with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. It will be a great opportunity for anyone who is curious about local nonprofits and what they do, as well as for anyone thinking about serving on a nonprofit board or committee, now or in the future.

Nonprofit Speed Dating will be held Tuesday, May 16 from 5-7 p.m. at the Stone Lodge in Fremont. For more information and to RSVP, visit facommunityfoundation.org/events or call 231.924.5350.

Working with multiple regional partners, the Community Foundation recently commissioned a study of veteran services in our area, specifically Michigan Prosperity Region 4A.

The study was conducted by the Altarum Institute—a nonprofit health systems research and consulting organization—and involved interviews with veterans and service providers to get a true picture of what services are available for local veterans, how veterans access those services, and what gaps exist.

The study was funded by the Community Foundation and local partners in Osceola, Mecosta, Lake, Oceana, and Mason counties.

Results showed that while there are many resources available for veterans in our community, individuals and organizations are not always aware of them. In order to connect veterans to services, work has begun to form a Veterans Community Action Team for our region. A major responsibility of the team will be to create an online platform to allow service providers to quickly connect veterans and their families to a wide array of services and resources.

You can read the full survey report here.

For more information, contact Maria Gonzalez at 231.924.5350.

Serving on a nonprofit organization’s board or one of its committees is a meaningful way to make a difference in your community. Newaygo County nonprofits are waiting for your talents, your leadership, and your passion!

Join us to learn what serving on a nonprofit board is all about at a free Introduction to Nonprofit Board Service seminar. You’ll learn more about:

  • Roles and responsibilities of board members
  • Nonprofit fundraising, financial management, and board structures
  • How your skills and talents can help strengthen local nonprofits

Choose from one of four dates and locations:

You don’t have to be ready to make a commitment; just come and learn! Then, in May, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a “nonprofit speed dating” event where you can connect with local organizations who could use your skills and talents.

For more details and to register, visit facommunityfoundation.org/events.

These seminars are part of the 2017 Leadership Series. Working with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, our goal in 2017 is to identify and train a new wave of people willing to serve on our local nonprofit, church, township, service club, and other community boards. The tradition of strong volunteer boards and committees is uniquely American and is key to making Newaygo County one of the most vibrant rural counties in Michigan.

Recently the Newaygo County Workforce Development Task Force commissioned a report from Talent 2025 to shine a light on the current state of our local workforce.

The task force was formed to address our county’s declining participation in the workforce as well as employee development and retention. Task force members include Fremont Area Community Foundation, Michigan Works! West Central, Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, Newaygo County Economic Development Office in association with The Right Place, TrueNorth, and United Way of the Lakeshore-Newaygo County.

The Talent 2025 report was an important step in the task force’s early work to examine data on local employment and the workforce. The report revealed key findings about our economy, the local labor force, and community assets.

Based on this research, the task force is now developing an approach to engage the business community as a partner in implementing solutions to help people become successful in the workforce and to fulfill the talent needs of local employers.

“Our first role was the identification of our current status,” said Mark Guzniczak, business development coordinator with NCEDO and The Right Place. “And our second is to develop programming, connections, and relationships to work together to fill the gaps.”

Read the full Talent 2025 report here.

The tradition of strong volunteer boards and committees is uniquely American and is key to making Newaygo County one of the most vibrant rural counties in Michigan.

This coming year, the Community Foundation, in partnership with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, will identify and train a new wave of people willing to serve on our local nonprofit, church, township, service club, and other community boards.

In February and April of 2017, the Johnson Center will provide specialized board training for those inspired to serve and who possess a passion for improving our community. The program will culminate with an event aimed at pairing newly trained community volunteers with the nonprofits and organizations in need of their leadership.

In addition, the Johnson Center will lead a coaching series for current leaders of nonprofit boards. Through three sessions, local board chairpersons will gain insights into addressing their organizations’ toughest challenges and enhance their roles to lead effectively. The first coaching session is planned for January.

To learn more, or to express your interest in participating, call Mark Petz, special projects coordinator, at 231.924.5350 or email info@facommunityfoundation.org.

The Community Foundation has welcomed four new staff members this fall, and we’re excited to introduce them to you! These awesome people will help round out our administration, community investment, and philanthropic services teams.

Katie Boven joins us as an administrative assistant. You might talk to her when you call in or see her at our front desk in the mornings. Katie previously worked as a legal assistant for a local law office where she handled a variety of office duties including drafting correspondence, scheduling, and reception. Katie has lived in the area for six years and has a bachelor’s degree in business from Western Michigan University.

Nicole D’Arcy is our newest program officer and will be overseeing our poverty to prosperity grantmaking. Her experience and training provides a valuable perspective to these efforts. Most recently she was the federal grant program director with Catholic Charities West Michigan, collaborating with more than 30 partner agencies and measuring community impact, while also managing its Foster Grandparent program.

Sarah Dixon is our new philanthropic services associate. Her experience working with donors began when she served as stewardship coordinator and major gift associate at Ferris State University. At Ferris, she developed and implemented the university’s comprehensive stewardship program. She has been the community development manager at Make-a-Wish Foundation of Michigan and most recently worked with the Teaching College Dean at Ball State University.

Samantha Ruthven joins us as a program associate and will be responsible for assisting with educational programming and grantmaking. Most recently she managed the PACE/FOCUS after-school programs for TrueNorth Community Services. There she supervised Baldwin, Hesperia, and White Cloud schools’ programs and gained experience writing grant proposals, managing program budgets, and establishing community partnerships.

What is it like living in Newaygo County?
What opportunities and challenges face us as we forge a future together?
What resources can we tap into to move our community forward?

As part of our community needs assessment process this year, Fremont Area Community Foundation has been gathering data and feedback about what it’s like to live here, what challenges we face, and what can make our community’s future even brighter. During this process, community surveys were conducted in Newaygo County. Data gathered during the needs assessment process and through the community surveys was then compiled into a comprehensive report. These insights are designed to inform our decisions, help us set bold goals, and harness all our resources to make life in our community even better. View the full report here:

We also conducted a community needs assessment in the three communities of our geographic affiliates: Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties. View those reports here:

Questions about any of these reports? Contact Maria Gonzalez at 231.924.5350.

After over 15 years with the Community Foundation, Mary Crisman recently announced that she will retire in early July.

Crisman, a lifelong Newaygo County resident, started with the Community Foundation in the program department before moving up to executive assistant and office manager.

“I was born and raised in Newaygo County, so I was interested in working here because I knew what great things they did for the community,” said Crisman.

Most recently, as the administrative services director, she was a member of the Community Foundation’s leadership team and was responsible for managing the office, building, and grounds. In 2014 she oversaw the Community Foundation’s office renovation, including the temporary relocation of all staff and equipment.

Crisman says that she is grateful for the opportunity her work has given her to learn even more about the people and resources in Newaygo County.

“My favorite part of working here has been the opportunities it gave me to meet a lot of really great people,” she said.

“Mary has been a vital presence at the Community Foundation for over 15 years,” said Carla Roberts, FACF president and CEO. “She has built strong relationships with board and community members while serving this organization with dedication and humor. She will be sorely missed by our organization. We are grateful for her years of service and wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement!”

In retirement, Crisman is looking forward to camping and fishing with her husband, traveling and visiting family in Florida, and maintaining her pet grooming business.

The second in a series of “Discover Your Community Days” will be held on May 20. These events are part of the Leadership Series, presented by the Community Foundation in partnership with the Fremont Area and River Country chambers of commerce.

Discover Your Community Days are designed to give current and emerging community leaders a broader base of knowledge of Newaygo County, an opportunity to network, and a better awareness of area resources. The May 20 event will focus on Newaygo County government and human services.

During the day-long program, participants will receive tours of Newaygo County government facilities, Commission on Aging, Central Dispatch, and TrueNorth Community Services. The program will also feature guest speakers from local service organizations and a panel discussion by Newaygo County judges.

Future Discover Your Community Days will focus on natural resources, outdoor amenities, health, arts, culture, and local history. The first event in the series, held last October, concentrated on business, agriculture, and education.

Registration for the May 20 event is free and includes transportation and lunch. Space is limited. Find out more and register online through Eventbrite.

On Monday, Dec. 21 President Obama signed the PATH Act, making the tax-free IRA Charitable Rollover permanent law.

How it works:

  • People age 70 1/2 or older can make a gift of up to $100,000 by transferring IRA assets to Fremont Area Community Foundation. If married, each spouse can transfer up to $100,000 from their IRA.
  • IRA transfer gifts can create or contribute to an unrestricted, field-of-interest, designated, or scholarship fund. Unfortunately, transfers to create or contribute to donor-advised funds are not allowed.
  • These gifts become part of a permanent endowment, which means they’ll help every person in Newaygo County have a bright future for years to come.

The bill makes the tax-free IRA rollover retroactive to December 31, 2014, which means gifts transferred directly from a donor’s IRA to us at any point during 2015 will qualify as a rollover gift.

If you have questions or want to take advantage of this opportunity, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our philanthropic services team.

During the week of November 12-18, Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF) will join more than 750 community foundations across the country in celebrating Community Foundation Week.

For over 20 years, this effort has recognized the work of community foundations and the role they play in addressing immediate community needs as well as supporting long-term solutions to persistent challenges like hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and college completion. Every state is home to at least one community foundation and while each is unique, all share a common goal of serving donors, nonprofit organizations, and the community as a whole.

“Community foundations impact lives, solve problems, and improve futures,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “As many individuals and families in Newaygo County grapple with limited resources and a growing need for services, we are more determined than ever to bring community partners together to find innovative and effective solutions for community needs, both immediately and into the future.”

Fremont Area Community Foundation is one of 63 community foundations in Michigan and consistently ranks among the largest community foundations in the United States, with $229.5 million in total assets in 2014. The Community Foundation also hosts three geographic affiliates: Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola county community foundations.

Thanks to generations of passionate and generous donors, in 2014 FACF was able to present scholarships to more than 500 students and award more than $8 million in grants to support community and economic development, education, natural resources, nonprofit sustainability, and poverty to prosperity efforts.