The search has begun to replace Carla Roberts, Fremont Area Community Foundation president and CEO. Roberts has led the organization since 2011 and plans to retire from her position by the end of 2021.

Joe Roberson, Community Foundation board chair, announced this week that he, along with fellow trustee Lori Tubbergen Clark, has assembled a search committee comprised of representatives from all sectors and geographic regions served by the Community Foundation. The preliminary work to create a committee and identify a national search firm was also guided by former trustee, Bill Johnson.

“The 11 individuals on the search committee bring diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to this important task,” said Roberson, who will serve as chair of the committee. “We have representatives from education, banking and finance, law, government, and the nonprofit sectors as well as community leaders from our four-county service area.”

The search committee includes:

  • Joe Roberson, search committee chair, FACF board chair, and head of accounting operations at Nestle Business Services North America
  • Lori Tubbergen Clark, search committee vice chair, superintendent of Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency (NC RESA), and vice chair of FACF board of trustees
  • Dick Dunning, retired president and CEO of Fremont Insurance and former FACF trustee
  • Lola Harmon-Ramsey, owner of Cart-Right Recycling, LLC and FACF trustee
  • Bob Jordan, retired FACF vice president of philanthropic services and former trustee
  • Renee Kent, trustee of Mecosta County Community Foundation (FACF affiliate), principal of Riverview Elementary, Big Rapids Public Schools
  • Dani Merrill, president of Bellwether Harbor and former FACF board chair
  • Holly Moon, retired Newaygo County treasurer and former FACF trustee
  • Mikhail Salacina, attorney and partner at Schuiteman & Salacina and FACF trustee
  • Judge Bob Springstead, circuit court judge
  • Donna Trice, insurance agent at State Farm and FACF trustee

Lori Tubbergen Clark, search committee vice chair, emphasized that the committee will undertake a nationwide search to find the right person to succeed Roberts.

“We are committed to identifying worthy applicants and conducting a thoughtful and transparent search process,” said Tubbergen Clark. “Each member of the search committee has a shared commitment to find another exceptional leader to guide the Community Foundation into the future.”

To assist in their efforts, the search committee will also retain a search firm with proven experience in conducting a CEO-level search in the community foundation field. Both groups will work to find and evaluate possible applicants and the search committee will provide a short list of candidates to the Community Foundation Board of Trustees by July 2021. The board will conduct interviews and make a final selection by August.

“We are grateful to the community members who have agreed to share their time and talents to help us find the best possible president and CEO,” said Roberson. “Fremont Area Community Foundation has been a trusted force for good in our community for nearly 70 years, and our board and search committee are dedicated to finding an exemplary candidate with passion and experience to build on this legacy of impact for years to come.”

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently announced a partnership with MSU Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) to create the Small Business Recovery Loan Program. Up to $3.4 million is being leveraged by the Community Foundation with MSUFCU to support businesses in Newaygo County. An additional $100,000 was invested in Northern Initiatives to provide small business loans. Northern Initiatives is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides loans and business expertise for start-up and existing businesses that might not otherwise qualify for loans from traditional financial institutions.

The loan program at MSUFCU is designed to assist small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent state shutdown. During the stay at home order, many businesses were temporarily closed, resulting in lost income, staff layoffs, and ongoing fixed costs that created financial drain. The loans are meant to serve as short-term funding to help local businesses get back on their feet.

“We know that many local businesses applied for federal aid in the past several months. While most received a small amount of recovery funding, many were denied or not even allowed to apply,” said Carla Roberts, President and CEO. “The Community Foundation wants to preserve the existing businesses in our community and give them the tools to not only survive but to thrive as our state slowly reopens and businesses once again generate income.”

Loans from $5,000 to $50,000 are available for Newaygo County businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees. The terms of the loans are favorable with a low interest rate and up to a five-year term. The first principal and interest payments may not be due until 90 days after closing, depending on the needs of the business. Both nonprofit and for-profit entities are eligible to apply, including service, retail, agriculture, commercial, and industrial businesses.

“In essence, we are standing behind the small business community and using the Community Foundation’s assets as a kind of collective bargaining chip to leverage the support we believe local businesses will need during this recovery,” said Roberts.

In reviewing the program for compliance, Jeff Hert, CPA, principal at Rehmann Robson said, “This is a terrific program for businesses in the community and shows excellent collaboration with a partner. This is a great example of impact investment in a crisis situation for small businesses.”

Both the Community Foundation and MSUFCU believe their partnership is a natural fit and demonstrates the organizations’ shared missions to serve and improve life in the community.

“MSUFCU is pleased to partner with Fremont Area Community Foundation to provide local businesses with a newly-created loan program,” said April Clobes, President and CEO of MSUFCU. “It is all of our responsibility to lift up our businesses and communities in times of need so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Businesses interested in applying for a loan from the Small Business Recovery Loan Program can visit facommunityfoundation.org/loans for more information. Program contacts Don Farmer and Dan Wheat can also be reached directly at loan@facommunityfoundation.org.

Lindsay Hager of Fremont will be the new director of community investment at Fremont Area Community Foundation. He joined the staff on June 17.

Hager brings many years of experience with the Community Foundation to his new role overseeing the community investment team and strategic initiative work. He has been on the Board of Trustees for eight years and has served as both board chair and chair of the Distribution Committee, which provides grantmaking oversight. Previously, Hager served for nine years on the Elderly Needs Fund board.

“I am excited for this opportunity to serve Newaygo County and work with an exceptional team of donors, trustees, staff, and grantees,” said Hager.

In addition to his experience with the Community Foundation, Hager is president of Hager Consulting and has worked for 30 years in the affordable housing and community development field. He has worked with a wide variety of municipal and nonprofit clients on strategic plans, feasibility studies, project management, and grant administration.

“We are fortunate to have attracted this talent to our team,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “Lindsay is well-versed in all aspects of our organization, including our strategic plan and initiative work. We are excited to welcome him to the staff.”

In addition to Hager’s hiring, Mark Petz has been promoted to senior community investment officer and will provide leadership to grantmaking staff. Jenna Smalligan was also promoted to community investment officer and will serve as lead staff in the Community Foundation’s poverty to prosperity focus area.

The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of Fremont Area Community Foundation recently announced the results of its annual YAC grant round, awarding more than $76,000 to 12 agencies and programs serving local youth.

Grants were awarded to a variety of programs that align with YAC’s funding priorities: supporting youth facing challenges such as poor home life, building and improving recreational and educational activities for local youth, and continuing education and skill development opportunities.

Building on a program they helped to fund last year, YAC awarded support for an expansion of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan’s be nice. mental health awareness and education program in two local school districts. They also joined several other regional partners in supporting a new child advocacy center to serve Lake, Newaygo, Mecosta, and Osceola counties. Programs at two local libraries received funding as well as art and drama workshops, mentoring programs, a leadership workshop for eighth graders, and more.

Grant applications were reviewed by YAC members who come from each Newaygo County public high school and the local homeschool community. Throughout the year,  YAC members also visit local nonprofit organizations, learn about philanthropy and leadership, and engage in community service projects.

YAC grants are awarded each spring to programs impacting local youth. Applications are due March 1. For more information, visit facommunityfoundation.org/YACgrants or call 231.924.5350.

More than 550 Newaygo County kindergartners have received their first Kickstart to Career deposit from Fremont Area Community Foundation.

Kickstart to Career Newaygo County is a children’s savings account program that is operated by the Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank. It kicked off in the fall of 2018 when kindergartners automatically received their very own savings account. The Community Foundation initially deposits $50 into each account and students can earn additional deposits every year through 12th grade. Family members and friends can also make deposits into a student’s account.

Kickstart to Career was created to build aspirations, encourage savings, increase financial education, and assist with college or career expenses.

The program currently serves over 550 kindergarteners and will impact more than 7,000 students over the next 10 years.

“Kids are six times more likely to go to college if they have even a small savings account,” said Amy Moore, director of community investment at the Community Foundation. “They’re also more likely to have bank accounts and healthier credit as adults. With Kickstart to Career, we’re integrating the idea of dreaming, planning, and saving for the future into our culture, starting with our kindergartners.”

As part of the program, ChoiceOne Bank will also provide financial literacy education in classrooms. This fall, kindergartners learned about safe places to save money and were given a piggy bank to start their own savings. Currently, kindergarten teachers are planning spring field trips to visit their local ChoiceOne Bank location.

Upon high school graduation, students can use their Kickstart to Career accounts to help pay for career or educational expenses like tuition, books, job training, and required supplies.

Kickstart to Career is a 10-cohort pilot program and open to students entering kindergarten from 2018 through 2027. Fremont Area Community Foundation expects to make more than $3.4 million in deposits over the next 10 years.

For more information, visit kickstarttocareer.org or call 231.924.5350.

The Community Foundation recently welcomed two new staff members.

Casey Houston joins us as an administrative assistant. She will work with Foundation Manager Maria Gonzalez to serve our three geographic affiliates—Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola county community foundations—as well as the Elderly Needs Fund and Amazing X Charitable Trust supporting organizations. Casey grew up in the area, attended Central Michigan University, and has a background in event planning and hospitality. She looks forward to giving back to the community through her work, and we’re happy to have her join our team!

Dan Wheat joins our grantmaking team as a community investment officer. In this role, he will be responsible for the review, analysis, presentation, and monitoring of grant proposals and projects, particularly in the area of community and economic development. Dan is from Grant and is a fourth-generation Newaygo County resident with a deep knowledge of our area. He brings many years of experience in the banking industry and has also served on our Amazing X and Professional Advisory boards. We’re excited to have him join us!

Fremont Area Community Foundation awarded $3.35 million to local organizations and programs in its most recent community grant round.

Grant funding was awarded to a wide variety of organizations and projects addressing critical local needs. The grant round included general community grants along with grants targeting each of the Community Foundation’s three focus areas: community and economic development, education, and poverty to prosperity.

The Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency (NC RESA) received a two-year $120,000 grant for its Family Information Service Hub (F.I.S.H.) program. In this program, families work with trusted advisors—individuals who received public assistance themselves—to get help with things like applying for assistance or connecting to housing resources.

In the area of community and economic development, the Community Foundation partnered with the County of Newaygo to support Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam trail with a $500,000 grant. The Dragon is a planned 47.5 mile circular biking and hiking trail around Hardy Pond. Designed and endorsed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the trail is expected to become a premiere regional and national attraction and create new jobs in the area.

Grant Public Schools was awarded a $10,000 grant for its teacher-developed pilot program: Readers Into Leaders. The reading intervention program will pair elementary school readers with proficient middle school readers over the course of three months. In addition to reading support, the pairs will participate in community service projects together.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was awarded a grant to support Vera’s House, a community wellness center. The $14,500 grant will support two programs at Vera’s House. Women in Transition offers support and resources for women who have experienced grief or loss. Project Illuminate is a counseling program that provides access to mental health support and treatment.

Organizations located in or directly serving the people of Newaygo County are eligible to receive Community Foundation grants. Applications for community grants are due on March 1 and September 1.

To learn more about the Community Foundation’s strategic grantmaking, contact a member of the community investment team at 231.924.5350 or visit facommunityfoundation.org/grants.

After 20 years with the Community Foundation, Mary Huisjen will retire at the end of January.

Callers and visitors to the Community Foundation are often first greeted by Mary, who has served as our receptionist and special projects associate. Mary started at the Community Foundation in November 1998 after working for Gerber Products for 19 years in order invoicing and baby care marketing.

One of Mary’s favorite parts of her job at the Community Foundation has been the wide range of projects she has worked on.

“I enjoyed the variety in responsibilities over my 20 years here,” said Mary. “I knew that no day would be like any other.”

In addition to her role in administrative services, Mary has worked with scholarship recipients and donors, served as an advisor and mentor to the Youth Advisory Committee, and provided key leadership on the Community Foundation’s prairie restoration project. These efforts were recognized on a state level in October when the prairie received the President’s Award from Keep Michigan Beautiful.

“I’ve really enjoyed that here at the Community Foundation we are focused on the community,” said Mary. “That makes you feel good about your work at the end of the day.”

In retirement, Mary is looking forward to traveling, gardening, volunteering, and exploring new hobbies and opportunities. She is also excited to spend more time with her husband Carl and their children and grandchildren.

Our President and CEO Carla Roberts was recently published in The Foundation Review, a peer-reviewed journal for the field of philanthropy. Her article, “From Charitable Giving to Strategic Impact,” details the Community Foundation’s journey toward more strategic grantmaking and increased impact.

In 2011, we launched a community investment strategy focused on education, poverty, and economic development. These strategies were developed with significant community involvement and input into the planning and designed to improve the quality of life for all Newaygo County residents. It took time as well as assistance in the form of backbone services and tools to monitor impact to make the transition to these new ways of thinking. As we’ve moved ahead with our second five-year strategic plan, we are guided by research and learning, community feedback, grantee survey results, and evidence of where the work has contributed to positive outcomes for the people and organizations we serve.

Read the full article HERE.

Kickstart to Career Newaygo County savings accounts are now open and ready for deposits.

Created by Fremont Area Community Foundation in partnership with ChoiceOne Bank, Kickstart to Career is a child savings account program designed to build aspirations, encourage savings, increase financial education, and assist with post-secondary education and career expenses. After high school graduation, students can withdraw their savings and use it toward qualifying post-secondary expenses including tuition, books, job training, and required supplies.

This fall, all kindergarten students living in Newaygo County and attending any Newaygo County public school, Grant Christian School, or Fremont Christian School were automatically enrolled and have received a deposit-only savings account. Students have also met with ChoiceOne Bank staff to learn about saving for the future and received special piggy banks for saving.

Along with an initial $50 deposit from the Community Foundation, students can earn additional deposits each school year. Other individuals can also make deposits into an account at any time by visiting a ChoiceOne Bank. Relatives and friends may consider making deposits as part of a holiday or birthday gift or in recognition of other milestones and events in a student’s life.

Student account numbers are being mailed home along with more details about the program and local ChoiceOne Bank branch information.

For more details on Kickstart to Career Newaygo County, visit kickstarttocareer.org.

It was recently announced that Todd Jacobs, our vice president and chief philanthropy officer, has been named the new president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. We are very sad to see Todd go, but we are happy for him and for this career achievement! Todd is originally from the Muskegon area, and it is always exciting to see a native son bring the skills and talents he has developed in his career back to his hometown.

Since rejoining the Fremont Area Community Foundation staff in 2013, Todd has expanded outreach, developed new giving opportunities, and launched key initiatives, like Kickstart to Career Newaygo County. We know that he is going to accomplish even more great things with our friends in Muskegon County. We enjoy a close relationship with the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, meeting regularly and collaborating on a number of projects. We are glad to know we will be able to continue working with Todd in the future as he serves in this new position.

Todd will remain with us through mid-December. Transition plans include the promotion of Wes Miller to director of philanthropic services in January and other internal changes over the coming weeks as more staff members take on additional responsibilities.

Please join us in thanking Todd for his years of faithful service to Fremont Area Community Foundation and in wishing him well in his new role in Muskegon County!

Fremont Area Community Foundation supports the 911 surcharge proposal appearing on Newaygo County ballots this Election Day. We feel strongly that we must ensure Newaygo County’s Central Dispatch has the updated technology it needs to continue providing all of us with safe, efficient 911 services.

Our local 911 dispatchers provide 24-7 lifesaving operations that all of us rely on. In 2017, local dispatchers placed or received 71,835 calls and dispatched 34,581 incidents. And we ask them to do all of this on a system built in 2002 and running on a Windows 2000 server. Think for a moment of how many times you’ve replaced and updated your own personal technology like computers, laptops, or cell phones in the last 16 years.

The primary source of funding for technology updates—like the ones our dispatchers so desperately need—is the 911 surcharge on land lines and contracted cell phones/devices. In 2003, Newaygo County voters approved a surcharge of up to $3 per month. But even with this support, the surcharge requires approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission. In 2008, they reduced the surcharge, causing revenues to significantly decrease over the last 10 years. Currently, the surcharge is $1.95 per month.

On November 6, Newaygo County voters will be asked to reinstate the $3 surcharge. The total increase would be just $1.05 month—less than four cents per day! Funding will be used exclusively for supporting 911 equipment and services in Newaygo County. Over the next 10 years it will cover the costs of purchasing a main computer system for 911 communications and documentation, a telephone system, dispatch radio consoles, and more lifesaving technology.

The Community Foundation is proud to join the Police and Fire Chiefs Associations in supporting this proposal. As an organization committed to improving the quality of life for everyone in Newaygo County, we feel that it is our responsibility to support the lifesaving work of Newaygo County 911 Central Dispatch.

To learn more about this proposal, view our fact sheet.

Fremont Area Community Foundation’s prairie restoration project recently received the President’s Award from Keep Michigan Beautiful.

In a ceremony held in Frankenmuth on October 12, Mary Huisjen, FACF special projects associate, accepted the award on behalf of the Community Foundation.

“I was excited,” said Huisjen. “I consider myself fortunate to have represented the Community Foundation at the Keep Michigan Beautiful awards program and to now have our prairie recognized by this organization.”

The Community Foundation’s turf-to-prairie conversion started in 2005 and has been carried out in phases over several years. Most of the eight-acre property now provides native landscaping for a variety of wildflowers, natural grasses, and wildlife. A species log kept by staff has included many deer sightings as well as geese, sandhill cranes, turtles, and a variety of butterflies. A honey bee hive was added earlier this year.

The public is invited to self-tour the prairie, located at 4424 West 48th Street in Fremont. A walking path begins with an interpretive sign at the rear of the parking lot.

“I like being able to show it off,” said Huisjen, who noted that individuals and groups like the Fremont Garden Club have visited. “I hope the award puts us on the map as a place to stop and visit.”

Keep Michigan Beautiful annually recognizes programs, projects, and activities that substantially contribute to the beautification, clean-up, environmental enhancement, site restoration, and historical preservation of the state. Other 2018 award recipients included community and school gardens, an urban bee and pollinator program, lighthouse renovations, and a fish passage project.

Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. is a nonprofit, educational public service organization of volunteer citizens whose goal is to promote the cause of beautification, recycling, and anti-littering. KMB is the only organization sanctioned by the state that recognizes and honors beautification programs and activities as well as promotes and educates the public in all aspects of beautification. KMB is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.

Fremont Area Community Foundation awarded nearly $1.98 million to local agencies and programs in its most recent community grant round.

Grant funding was awarded to a wide variety of organizations and projects addressing critical local needs. In addition to grants impacting the focus areas of community and economic development and poverty to prosperity, more than $978,000 was awarded to the area of education.

Newaygo Public Schools received a $43,025 grant to help launch a new program, Pride Page Prowlers, to provide additional literacy training for teachers and take-home literacy materials for families. The district will host family literacy nights and will introduce the new “Lions Literacy Den” this school year. Parents will be able to check out reading kits put together by teachers that include a book and a corresponding activity for families to do at home.

Hesperia Community Schools and Fremont Public Schools will partner to bring Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies to their districts. The program provides teachers with strategies designed to promote cooperation and communication in the classroom as well as boost student confidence. A $12,950 grant will help support training of over 100 teachers in both Hesperia and Fremont schools.

While many education-related grants are awarded to schools, partnerships with agencies that provide educational programming are also taking place throughout the county. Arbor Circle has provided substance abuse prevention programs in Newaygo County since 2011 and received a $12,000 grant for new curriculum and staff training for their programming in local schools. They offer interactive programming to help students develop essential life skills as well as programs that provide prevention, intervention, and pretreatment services for young people making high-risk choices.

“We’re proud to support so many outstanding programs and organizations working to strengthen and expand educational opportunities in Newaygo County,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “We’re grateful to partner with these and other organizations and with the donors who make each grant possible.”

The Community Foundation works closely with agencies that are located in or directly serve the people of Newaygo County. Applications for the next community grant round are due by September 1 and notifications take place in December.

To ask questions or learn more about the Community Foundation’s strategic grantmaking, contact a member of the FACF community investment team at 231.924.5350 or visit facommunityfoundation.org/grants.

The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of Fremont Area Community Foundation recently announced the results of its annual YAC grant round, awarding more than $72,000 to local agencies and programs serving youth. With this round, YAC has now granted more than $1 million since awarding its first grants in 1995.

This year’s grants were awarded to 11 different organizations to support a wide variety of youth programs. Each aligned with one of YAC’s three funding priorities: supporting youth facing challenges such as poor home life, building and improving recreational and educational activities for local youth, and continuing education and skill development opportunities.

One new program receiving funding was the “be nice.” mental health education initiative. The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan will partner with local schools to bring the program to Newaygo County. Through a variety of lessons and activities, the program encourages schools and communities to embrace good mental health and recognize the power of everyday words and actions.

Other grants awarded will support art and drama classes for teens, recycling, infant safety, mentoring and internship programs, and more.

Grant applications were reviewed by YAC members who come from each Newaygo County public high school and the local homeschool community. YAC members also conducted site visits to share information about the available grant funding and to learn more about local nonprofit organizations.

YAC grants are awarded once a year to programs impacting local youth. Applications are available in February and due on March 1. For more information, visit facommunityfoundation.org/YACgrants or call 231.924.5350.