On April 22, community members gathered virtually with Fremont Area Community Foundation for Stronger Together: Life in the Margins. The event was the third in the Community Foundation’s Stronger Together Series, which began last November and will continue through 2021.

Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO, welcomed attendees and introduced the series and the evening’s topic. “The Stronger Together Series was built on a simple truth: we all have a story,” she said. “In our community, thousands of residents have difficulty meeting basic needs such as housing, food, and healthcare. But what does it actually mean to live in poverty in Newaygo County?”

Roberts then welcomed State Representative Scott VanSingel, who represents the 100th District and serves on the Michigan Poverty Task Force Advisory Council. VanSingel shared data and updates on work at the state level to address poverty.

“Newaygo County is a great place to live,” said VanSingel, highlighting outdoor recreation, lower housing costs, and higher rates of home ownership. “It’s not all negative, but we do have some problems.”

VanSingel shared that Newaygo County’s poverty rate is 15.7 percent while the state average is 13 percent. He mentioned local challenges like internet access, fewer people with health insurance, median income lower than the state average, and a lower rate of educational attainment. He also shared updates on education funding, unemployment, and childcare funding at the state level.

Following VanSingel’s update, Christina Yuhasz moderated a panel discussion with four Newaygo County residents. Yuhasz is a parent liaison with Newaygo County Great Start and a trusted advisor with Family Information Service Hub (FISH). FISH hubs and advisors travel around the county helping connecting families to available local resources.

During the discussion, panelists shared their experiences and talked about misconceptions and stigma they have encountered related to poverty.

Panelist Krista Sellers shared that while most people don’t set out to be unkind, “there is still a stigma there,” she said. “Usually in the checkout lines nobody says anything, but if you pull a food card out to purchase your groceries, that is a big one.”

A major misconception that panelists mentioned repeatedly was the idea that people in poverty are lazy or just aren’t working hard enough. Panelist Laura Hesting said that despite being a household with two working parents, there were times when her family still needed assistance.

“People just wanted to presume that we didn’t work and we were lazy, but we did work. We worked hard,” said Hesting. “People in our community need to realize that just because you’re on assistance, doesn’t mean you’re lazy and doesn’t mean you don’t work. Pre-COVID, I typically worked 60 hours a week. For the past three years I’ve probably never worked less than three jobs and still lived in poverty.”

Panelists also talked about what it’s like to be disregarded or overlooked due to their circumstances and what our community can do to change that experience. They mentioned the importance of sharing opportunities and to opening one’s circle and connections to others. Nicole Coyne shared a personal passion to encourage more assistance to allow all kids to be involved in extracurricular activities, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Eric Puff talked about the lessons he hopes to pass on to his child. “Yes, the class distinction is there,” he said. “But if that’s where your eyes stop, then shame on you. Everybody’s value is inherent, and it has nothing to do with how much money they’re bringing home.”

As the event concluded, moderator Christina Yuhasz encouraged those listening to continue the conversation.

“We need to continue talking about poverty,” Yuhasz said. “I think when tonight ends, we don’t stop talking about poverty and what it’s like to live in poverty. Continuing to have these conversations is what’s going to change Newaygo County and what’s going to change the world.”

Stronger Together is a series of events designed to look at differences, identity, and the stories that shape our lives. The first event in November featured former Newaygo County residents and authors Razel Jones and Daniel Abbott who spoke about race, learning to navigate difficult spaces and conversations, and their new memoir Wounds. A February event addressed ageism and the experiences of younger and older members of the community.

The next event in the Stronger Together Series will take place in August. As future events are announced, information can be found on the Community Foundation’s social media channels (@FremontAreaCF) and on its website, facommunityfoundation.org.

Fremont Area Community Foundation has announced the launch of a nationwide search for its next president and CEO. As announced in March, the Community Foundation has retained Kittleman & Associates, a national executive search firm specializing in the recruitment of CEOs for nonprofit organizations, to lead the search.

Kittleman & Associates will partner with the Community Foundation’s search committee—a group comprised of representatives from across the Community Foundation’s four-county service area—to conduct a comprehensive search to identify a successor to Carla Roberts, who plans to retire by the end of 2021.

“Kittleman has a long and successful history of recruiting leaders for nonprofits across the country, including other community foundations in Michigan,” said Cory King, Kittleman president and CEO. “We feel confident we understand the complexities of the Community Foundation’s rural community and the specific needs of Newaygo County.”

Joe Roberson, Community Foundation board chair and chair of the search committee, echoed King’s thoughts. “This is a strong partnership and we look forward to identifying strong candidates,” he said. “After months of careful research and preparation, we are eager to finally launch the search for our organization’s next leader.”

Applications for the president and CEO position are now being received by Kittleman & Associates. The job specifications related to the position were developed with input from Community Foundation trustees, staff, grantees, community partners, and donors.

To view a position guide with detailed information about the opportunity or to apply for the position, visit https://bit.ly/320D8a5.

In our community, thousands of residents have difficulty meeting basic needs such as housing, food, and healthcare. These challenges only increased for individuals and families because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But what does it actually mean to live in poverty in Newaygo County? To have your finances derailed by an unexpected expense? To work multiple jobs and still struggle to make ends meet? To feel unheard or invisible in your own community? Join us virtually on April 22 to hear honest stories about life in the margins in our community.

Stronger Together Series: Life in the Margins
April 22 | Livestreamed | 6-7:30 p.m.

Through the reflections of our neighbors, we will explore the realities of poverty, grapple with false stereotypes and assumptions, and discuss ways we can learn from and support one another to build a stronger community.

The April 22 event is free to attend, but registration is required. Register now

Fremont Area Community Foundation announced it has retained Kittleman and Associates, a national executive recruiting firm, to lead the search for the Community Foundation’s next president and CEO.

Kittleman, a firm focused exclusively on senior executive searches in the nonprofit sector, will work with the existing local search committee to identify the successor to Carla Roberts, who announced last year her plans to retire by the end of 2021.

“Our goal is to find a dynamic candidate to lead the Community Foundation into the future while building on the legacy begun by Carla Roberts,” said Joe Roberson, Community Foundation board chair and chair of the search committee. “Kittleman has a long and successful history of recruiting leaders for nonprofit organizations across the country, including for many community foundations right here in Michigan.”

In late 2020, the Community Foundation board created a search committee comprised of representatives from across the organization’s four-county service area. This committee evaluated search firms using interview questions in categories such as understanding of the Community Foundation, diversity and culture, personality assessment, and the technical aspects of the nationwide search process.

“Kittleman’s scores were significantly higher than the other firms we evaluated,” said Lori Tubbergen Clark, search committee vice chair. “They understand the complexities of our rural community—particularly in relation to our infrastructure and vital nonprofit work—and will build a search process tailored specifically to the needs of Newaygo County. We’re excited to begin our work together.”

Cory King, Kittleman president and CEO, also looks forward to the partnership. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Community Foundation at this important moment of leadership transition,” said King. “Through our work with foundations in Michigan over the years, we have followed the work of Fremont Area Community Foundation and know the impressive scope of their impact. Given the challenges in all communities right now, we know the need for exceptional foundation leadership has never been greater and we look forward to engaging a thoughtful and creative leader to chart the next era at the Community Foundation.”

Kittleman will work in collaboration with the search committee to conduct a comprehensive search for candidates to apply for the position of president and CEO. A small pool will be provided to the Community Foundation Board of Trustees in mid-summer and a finalist is expected to be announced in August 2021. Once a formal position guide and profile have been approved by the board, it will be posted on Kittleman’s website at kittlemansearch.com.

On February 25, community members gathered virtually with Fremont Area Community Foundation for Stronger Together: A Community for All Ages. The event was the second in the Community Foundation’s Stronger Together Series and was funded in part by the Bridging Generations Fund.

Abby Reeg, executive director of the Newaygo County Community Collaborative, moderated a panel discussion that featured community members of different ages talking about how age can impact our experiences and sense of belonging in a community.

Some panelists shared their experiences of being passed over for jobs or promotions due to a perception of lack of experience. “Why does age have to mean maturity?” remarked Christian Burns, a student from Newaygo. “Why can’t we prove it?”

Other panelists noted the prevalence of comments often intended as jokes but centered on age-based stereotypes like forgetfulness and “having a senior moment.” “It’s even hard to find a funny birthday card that isn’t poking fun at age,” said Christie Pollock.

For all four panelists, increased intergenerational programming and opportunities is the key to creating a more age-inclusive community. Dawn Anderson mentioned programming at the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center that brought together older adult and visiting students to tell stories and share their perspectives.

“It seems like there’s so much hope that can be given to people if you include them in activities like that,” said Anderson. “People have so much to share—let them.”

Despite the prevalence of ageism, panelists also shared many examples of what gives them hope, like multi-generational teams in the workplace sharing their unique perspectives to help each other learn.

“I think that one thing you can always do is maintain an open mindset,” said panelist Sarah Dieterman. “Just being humble and being willing to ask for help from other people. I think that humility is a big thing to maintain at all times and knowing that the people around you can always teach you something.”

Stronger Together is a series of events designed to look at differences, identity, and the stories that shape our lives. The first event in November featured former Newaygo County residents and authors Razel Jones and Daniel Abbott who spoke about race, learning to navigate difficult spaces and conversations, and their new memoir Wounds.

“We want to create a space where we can build relationships with our neighbors, learn from each other, and honor each other’s stories and lived experiences,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “When we are open to new perspectives, we can start to grow.”

A recording of the February 25 event can be watched here.

The next event in the Stronger Together Series will take place in April. As future events are announced, information can be found on the Community Foundation’s social media channels (@FremontAreaCF) and on its website, facommunityfoundation.org.

Has your age ever affected how you relate to the community around you? Have you been told you were too young to do a job or too old to manage an activity? We instinctively know that a healthy community is a place where all voices are heard, but what do we do when factors such as age keep people from feeling like they belong? On February 25, join us for an intergenerational conversation about the challenges both young and older people face in our community.

Stronger Together Series: A Community For All Ages
February 25 | Livestreamed | 6-7:30 p.m.

We will hear stories from our neighbors about their own experiences, consider what an age-friendly society might look like, and discuss what it means to build meaningful connections across generations. The panel discussion will include a time for audience questions.

The February 25 event is free but registration is required. Register now

This event is funded in part by the Bridging Generations Fund, a supporting organization of Fremont Area Community Foundation.

The Elderly Needs Fund—a supporting organization of Fremont Area Community Foundation—recently announced it has changed its name to the Bridging Generations Fund.

Since 1992, the fund has made grants to benefit and enrich life for older adults in Newaygo County. Grants have been awarded to projects focused on physical and mental wellbeing, support and respite for caregivers, social enrichment activities, day programs, and more. While support for this important work continues, the fund’s board of directors has also looked for opportunities to support programming that encourages intergenerational partnerships.

“In 2019, we began learning about a concept called ‘age to age’ programming, designed to bring different generations together,” said Maria E. Gonzalez, foundation manager. “We have also been actively exploring ways to reframe aging in our community and looking at the language we use. Through all of this work, we realized it was important to choose a new name to reflect these priorities and our desire to support programming that builds stronger connections between generations.”

The fund’s recent efforts and learning were inspired by a 2016 survey of older adults in Newaygo County. The survey results, conversations with local partners, and opportunities to learn from communities in other parts of the country were all critical components of the board’s recent action planning and enhanced understanding of the power of different ages learning from each other.

“We believe building greater connections between different generations benefits the whole community,” said Gonzalez. “It is crucial not only in helping us all better understand the experiences and needs of our neighbors but also in helping people remain more connected to the community, no matter their age.”

The Bridging Generations Fund continues to accept grant applications twice per year, with deadlines of February 1 and September 1. The fund is currently accepting applications online for the next grant round. For more information, visit the fund’s page.

On November 5, the Community Foundation kicked off the Stronger Together Series with a virtual event titled “Beautifully Different” that featured former Newaygo County residents and authors Razel Jones and Daniel Abbott.

“Stronger Together is a series of community events about difference, identity, and the stories the shape our lives,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “We believe that everyone in our community has a story. For some, that story is one of belonging. For others, it’s more complicated. Diversity has always been a part of the fabric of our community—we just have to see it. The goal of this series is to amplify the voices of our neighbors and to explore the ways differences enhance our community and ultimately make us stronger.”

More than 120 people attended the launch of the series to hear from Jones and Abbott. The two men are brothers-in-law and authors of the recently released book Wounds. In this collaborative memoir, Jones, who is Black, and Abbott, who is white, reflect on their experiences growing up in Newaygo County and learning to navigate difficult spaces and hard conversations. Through stories that intersect and sometimes overlap, they explore what it looks like to understand and appreciate difference.

“Our goal with the book is to get conversations started,” said Abbott. “The beautiful thing about stories is it gives humans the ability to relate.”

Along with reading excerpts from the book, the event featured a candid discussion on personal experiences with racism, the importance of embracing differences, and the concept of cultural navigation. Jones described cultural navigation as “the ability to go into a room full of people different than you and successfully navigate those differences.” It was a skill Jones said he learned growing up as one of few Black children in a predominantly white community.

“You develop that skillset,” said Jones. “It is an amazing and necessary skill to navigate those differences. It’s a growth experience to bust out of your bubble. Are you willing to experience being other?”

During a question and answer time after the presentation, Jones and Abbott shared their thoughts on addressing racism and positive steps people can take in their communities.

“You have to use your you to influence your where,” said Jones. “We each have skills, knowledge, strengths. Ask, ‘What do I have and how can I contribute?’ What can you do to help level the playing field?”

Added Abbott, “One of the biggest problems is we don’t think the problem exists. On a human level, we need to stand up. It takes acknowledgement. It takes action. What is your ability to influence?”

According to Carla Roberts, it’s impossible to address systems and institutions that perpetuate inequities in our community without first addressing our own hearts.

“Change happens at the speed of trust,” she said. “It’s only by getting to know someone that you can start to understand them. We want to create a space where we can build relationships with our neighbors, learn from each other, and honor each other’s stories and lived experiences. When we are open to new perspectives, we can start to grow.”

Additional events in the Stronger Together Series will continue in 2021.

Fremont Area Community Foundation is excited to present Stronger Together, a series of community events about identity, difference, and the stories that shape our lives. The series kicks off on November 5 with Razel Jones and Daniel Abbott, authors of the upcoming book Wounds.

Stronger Together Series: Beautifully Different
November 5 | Livestreamed | 6-7:30 p.m.
Razel Jones and Daniel Abbott

Razel was raised in White Cloud and Daniel attended high school in Newaygo County. The men are brothers-in-law and authors of the upcoming book Wounds. In this collaborative memoir, Daniel, who is white, and Razel, who is Black, reflect on their experiences growing up and learning to navigate difficult spaces and have hard conversations. Through stories that intersect and sometimes overlap, they explore what it looks like to understand and appreciate differences. In the event on November 5, Razel and Daniel will talk about their experiences in this community, read excerpts from Wounds, and host a Q&A with attendees. All attendees will receive a free copy of Wounds after the event.

The November 5 virtual event is free but registration is required. Register now

This project is funded in part by Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

After nearly a decade of service to Newaygo County, Carla Roberts, president and CEO of Fremont Area Community Foundation, has announced her intention to retire from her position by the end of 2021. Roberts will continue in her leadership role at the Community Foundation until a successor is announced and brought on staff.

Roberts provided notice to the trustees in 2019 of her plans for retirement and a small planning committee was formed to consider the necessary steps to move forward. Following the public announcement, a search committee to find Roberts’ successor will be led by board chair Joe Roberson and vice-chair Lori Tubbergen Clark. “The search committee will be representative of the entire region served by the Community Foundation,” said Roberson. “In the interest of transparency and public engagement, we determined it was best to make an announcement sooner rather than later.”

According to Tubbergen Clark, “A process for filling a position of this nature is expected to take 12-16 months. We are pleased that Carla is willing to continue in her role as president and CEO until we have completed the search.”

Next March, Roberts will celebrate 10 years as president and CEO. During her tenure, the Community Foundation moved to a more strategic form of grantmaking in order to fulfill the organization’s mission—to improve the quality of life in Newaygo County—in deep and lasting ways. An inclusive process that involved trustees, staff, and community residents further defined “quality of life” as a vibrant economy, an effective public sector, and well-being across socioeconomic levels. Roberts was instrumental in the organizational process to identify the Community Foundation’s three decade goals: community and economic development, education, and moving residents from poverty to prosperity.

“It has been a privilege to serve the people of this community,” said Roberts. In reflecting on the upcoming transition period, she expressed confidence in the staff and board to continue as good stewards of the Community Foundation resources. “The team that is in place is a group of solid professionals who know how to deliver on our mission in partnership with donors and the local nonprofit sector.”

“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Carla for her years of service and significant impact on Newaygo County,” said Roberson. “We are exceedingly grateful for her leadership and look forward to finding another exceptional individual to guide our Community Foundation into the future.”

Fremont Area Community Foundation held its annual members meeting on June 18. Members elected two new trustees and reelected four incumbents to the organization’s Board of Trustees.

Members of the Community Foundation are chosen by virtue of their leadership positions in the community, and their primary responsibility is to meet annually to elect trustees. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held virtually for the first time in the organization’s history.

Roland Reed and Mikhail Salacina were each elected by the members to join the Community Foundation board.

Reed is a partner and CPA with H&S Companies. A native of Fremont, Reed earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in accountancy from Wake Forest University. He also serves on the Community Foundation’s Professional Advisors Board.

“I always thought about how I would give back,” said Reed, who returned to the area with his family after living outside Michigan for several years. “We have a great community here, with great people. When you look around the country, if we’re going to affect positive change, it has to start at the community level. I’m looking forward to being a part of what the future holds here. It’s exciting to think about what we can do in the next few years.”

Salacina is an attorney and partner at Schuiteman & Salacina, PLC. He graduated from Newaygo High School and earned bachelor’s degrees in political and biological science from Wayne State University. He earned his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

“I grew up in Newaygo County and I wanted to do something to give back to my community,” said Salacina. “I think we have opportunities here you wouldn’t have elsewhere. I see firsthand in my occupation the difference you can make in people’s lives. I think in a smaller community like ours, the impact you can have is often more direct. I’m really looking forward to serving on the board and seeing what impact we can make in a positive way for Newaygo County.”

Trustee incumbents Lola Harmon-Ramsey, William Alsover, Randy McDonald, and Peggy Rossler were each elected to serve additional three-year terms on the board.

Fremont Area Community Foundation wants to help preserve the existing businesses in our community and give them the tools to not only survive but to thrive as our state carefully reopens and businesses once again generate income.

That’s why the Community Foundation created the Small Business Recovery Loan Program to provide support to small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Community Foundation will partner with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) to offer low-interest loans with favorable terms.

WHO
Self-employed individuals and small businesses (both for-profit and nonprofit) with fewer than 50 employees

WHAT
Loans from $5,000 to $50,000 are available for Newaygo County businesses with fewer than 50 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.

WHERE
Businesses must be located in Newaygo County to apply

HOW
The Community Foundation is partnering with MSU Federal Credit Union, a Michigan-based organization with a shared commitment to our community. All loan documentation will come from MSUFCU.

Request assistance

If you or your business are interested in applying for a loan from the Small Business Recovery Loan Program, please start by reaching out to Dan Wheat or Don Farmer at loan@facommunityfoundation.org or the additional contact information below.

Dan Wheat, FACF community investment officer
dwheat@facommunityfoundation.org
231.766.1210

Don Farmer, independent consultant retained by FACF
farmer.d.w.@comcast.net
231.928.9155

We were all saddened this month by the loss of one of our own. Bill Leaver graced the Community Foundation with kindness, quiet wisdom, and three years of faithful service on our Board of Trustees. He also served on our committees for investment and community and economic development. Bill passed away at home on May 16, surrounded by his family, following a journey with cancer.

Bill represented the classic Newaygo County comeback story. He and his wife Jeanne both grew up here. They even dated in high school, reconnected years later at a reunion, and married in 1996. Their family now includes five children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild. While Bill’s education and career took him around the country, he and Jeanne always knew they wanted to return to this community. Bill attended Western Michigan University followed by graduate school at the University of Michigan. His 40-year career in hospital administration honed his executive leadership skills, which he contributed to our Community Foundation starting in 2017.

In addition to his role on our board, Bill was a thoughtful donor. He and Jeanne established a fund at the Community Foundation after giving for several years in response to needs that came to their attention. Supporting women in transition and addressing homelessness were especially close to their hearts. “We both grew up in an environment where our parents were very focused on teaching you that you were blessed with many gifts and you have a responsibility to help,” said Bill in a 2016 interview. “It’s not something I have to think about a lot. I’ve grown up with it as part of my value system. We need to be more concerned with what kind of society we have and the world our grandchildren will live in. It’s not just the responsibility of the government, schools, or churches. It’s all of us.”

Bill’s leadership in volunteering his time, donating funds, and his passion for helping those in need was truly inspiring. We will sorely miss his vision, enthusiasm, and determination to support his neighbors and make his community better.

The Leaver family has recommended that memorial gifts be directed to the William and Jeanne Leaver Fund at the Community Foundation. Friends may also share memories and condolences online at www.crandellfh.com.

An interview with Carla Roberts

Fremont Area Community Foundation is perhaps most well-known for its grantmaking programs and supporting local nonprofit organizations. Supporting economic development, small business growth, and entrepreneurship has also been a longstanding focus for the organization but often looks different from traditional grantmaking due to a variety of restrictions that all community foundations must navigate.

With all sectors feeling the impact of COVID-19, Carla Roberts, president and CEO, offered some insight into the Community Foundation’s pandemic response and its continuing commitment to local businesses.

How does supporting local businesses fit within the mission of the Community Foundation?

We believe small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. We love our business community, buy local whenever we can, and we encourage our grantees to do the same. This support for small business and entrepreneurs goes back to our earliest days. Several people have told us over the years that they got their start because Bessie Slautterback, the organization’s first executive, gave them a $5,000 loan to start a business.

Of course, we live in different times now, with significant IRS restrictions on how a community foundation can engage with local businesses. We can only award grants to organizations with a charitable status, such as 501c3 nonprofit organizations. That is why we work through intermediaries—such as Northern Initiatives and The Right Place—that have a charitable status and mission to support local business. The Right Place is a service organization and vital partner to support manufacturing, agricultural businesses, tourism, and entrepreneurship in Newaygo County. Northern Initiatives is a community development financial institution (CDFI) with the capability to provide financial services to businesses that do not qualify for conventional loans. In 2015, we established a $250,000 loan pool with Northern Initiatives to ensure that local businesses have the working capital to build and sustain their businesses.

The COVID-19 crisis has obviously had a large impact on our entire region, including local businesses. How did the Community Foundation initially respond to the need and what were the considerations for supporting the business community?

When the crisis hit, we were inundated by the needs from all sectors. We had to quickly deploy our staff in new ways, setting most up to work remotely. Within one week we had created the Community Response Fund and a new quick-response grant application and process to deploy grants from the fund. Of necessity, our first priority was to distribute emergency relief funds for food, shelter, and basic needs as demand quickly escalated alongside job losses.

At the same time, we knew small businesses and entrepreneurs were hurting and began to explore possibilities for supporting them in new ways. We encouraged nonprofits and businesses to take advantage of state and federal programs and we set up a technical assistance team of local experts to provide guidance to navigate those resources. The team included Dan Wheat to work with nonprofits,  Don Farmer to work with businesses of 50 employees or fewer, and Julie Burrell to work with larger businesses. Those resources are still in place for anyone who needs assistance. More information can be found at bit.ly/FACF-business.

We also began to develop a strategy to help small businesses by leveraging Community Foundation assets to support low-interest loans. It took some time to find a partner—as many local banking partners are inundated with processing federal programs—but we are very close to announcing a program to assist local businesses as we enter our county’s intermediate recovery phase.

Why wasn’t the Community Foundation able to award immediate needs grants or use other parts of its endowment to directly support small businesses?

The primary reason is that it is difficult to establish a “charitable class” which is required by the IRS. But even without those restrictions, we would not have had the available dollars in our grantmaking budget. While the Community Foundation and its affiliates award nearly $9 million in grants each year, our trustees only direct about $5 million of that amount. The other grant funds are designated for specific areas or are otherwise restricted in their use. We estimated that the need in the small business community would likely reach $2-3 million. Since we had already deferred significant resources to immediate basic needs such as food assistance, there were simply not sufficient grant funds to address the emerging needs anticipated during the recovery period for both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

Making grants to small businesses from our endowed assets would not only conflict with IRS funding restrictions but would also endanger the long-term power of our endowment. Our trustees have the responsibility to ensure that the endowment remains intact and keeps pace with inflation. To ensure this, we have a spending policy to limit the dollar amounts expended on an annual basis for both grants and operations. Along with stock market fluctuations, tapping into the endowment could impact and reduce our grantmaking abilities for years to come. Our community will need us well beyond the immediate crisis and we need to ensure the Community Foundation is viable for the recovery period and beyond.

Endowment ensures we will be here for the community for good, forever. A great example of the power of endowment is the Harry Williams Fund that was started during the Great Depression. That $5,000 fund has grown to over $9 million in assets and has given out more than $9 million over the life of the fund. Those were troubled times and it would have been easy to spend the funds for immediate needs, but the donor chose to endow them to provide for the present and the future.

What are your next steps for supporting the business community?

We are putting in place some financial programs through intermediaries that will offer low-interest loans on very favorable terms. 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—not just for the intermediate recovery period but probably for much longer. We will be announcing details about this program as soon as they are finalized. Stay tuned!

Fremont Area Community Foundation has distributed nearly 8,000 protective masks to businesses and nonprofits in Newaygo County. The initiative is part of a larger effort by the Community Foundation to support local organizations as they navigate the changing economic climate and work to keep their employees and clients safe.

The fabric face masks were distributed to organizations throughout the community, including Family Health Care, Newaygo County Commission on Aging, and the Newaygo County Community Collaborative (NC3). Masks were also distributed to the Fremont Area, River Country, and Hesperia chambers of commerce who are making them available to local businesses. Business owners in need of masks for their staff or volunteers can contact their local chamber.

“The Community Foundation remains committed to being a flexible community resource today and for the long term,” said Carla Roberts, president and CEO. “While this certainly includes grant funding, we are also being creative and adaptable to meet the unique challenges created by COVID-19. We continue to deploy a variety of resources and tools—like these masks—to support response and recovery in Newaygo County.”

The masks are already being used to help organizations address new challenges and safety guidelines. Family Health Care requested masks to provide to their patients and visitors at their clinics. Commission on Aging is using masks to help ensure the safety of their drivers and clients, as pictured, as they continue Meals on Wheels programs and transportation for dialysis appointments.

“Masks are vital during this time. Many people are living with fear and distress and a mask provides both safety and security,” said Joseph Fox, director of the Commission on Aging. “The Newaygo County Commission on Aging works with older adults who are 60 and older. During the COVID-19 situation we have increased Meals on Wheels deliveries by one-third and have continued to transport people with very critical health situations, like dialysis. In all of these situations, masks are necessary to assure older adults that we have their safety and security in mind.”

Providing masks for local businesses and organizations is part of the Community Foundation’s comprehensive effort to meet immediate needs and support long-term recovery efforts. Since March, the Community Foundation has also distributed more than $300,000 in grants from its Community Response Fund to support COVID-19 relief efforts. The fund is the product of a partnership with United Way-Newaygo County and countless generous donors. To date, $58,305 has been donated to the fund. Community members interested in contributing can visit facommunityfoundation.org/covid.

From closures and cancellations to layoffs and other dramatic shifts in operations, we know that local nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses are all feeling the impact of the COVID crisis. As you work to best serve your customers, clients, employees, and other stakeholders during these difficult times, we want to assist you in finding information and resources that can help.

Since we know that navigating state and federal resources can be a complicated process, we have identified local experts who can provide guidance to point you in the right direction:

Nonprofit agencies
Contact Dan Wheat, community investment officer at Fremont Area Community Foundation: dwheat@facommunityfoundation.org or 231.766.1210

Businesses with 50 employees or fewer
Contact Don Farmer, independent consultant retained by the Community Foundation: farmer.d.w@comcast.net or 231.928.9155

Businesses with more than 50 employees
Contact Julie Burrell, Newaygo County business development coordinator, The Right Place: burrellj@rightplace.org or 231.335.1985

We have also compiled a list of helpful resources below. This list will continue to evolve as more information becomes available. You should consult your business advisors—attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, and bankers—to make the best decisions for the current and future viability of your organization.

  • US Chamber of Commerce launched the “Save Small Business Fund” on April 20 to provide $5,000 grants to as many small employers as possible. To apply, you must run a small business or chamber of commerce with between 3-20 employees and be located in an economically vulnerable community. For more information or to apply, visit www.savesmallbusiness.com.
  • Michigan’s Work Share program allows employers to keep their employees working with reduced hours, while employees collect partial unemployment benefits to make up a portion of the lost wages. With Work Share, you can maintain operational productivity and hang on to your skilled workers. Contact Jonathan Eppley at Michigan Works at jeppley@miworkswc.org or 231.349.4144.

An update from your Community Foundation

Business as unusual—that’s where we are right now. We are all in service to our community, whether operating for profit, as a nonprofit, or as a unit of government. We are all struggling to navigate the current situation and our daily lives have been drastically altered. We are all concerned for our loved ones, our community, our customers, and for our financial and physical health.

Fremont Area Community Foundation is a flexible community resource that is here for the long term. While we cannot address every need across every sector, we are being creative, flexible, and adaptable to the new situation. We envision three distinct phases of need surrounding the COVID crisis:

Respond rapidly for relief: Immediate short-term response
Readjust for recovery: Intermediate recovery
Restructure for renewal: Long-term recovery

Respond: Immediate short-term
Currently, we are focused on immediate short-term needs and have allocated a total of $375,000 to Newaygo County nonprofit entities. These limited funds will not be sufficient to meet the escalation of very critical, urgent needs. These funds are primarily going to agencies that provide food, shelter, medical care, and childcare to a rapidly growing number of residents and essential workers in our community. In collaboration with United Way-Newaygo County, the Community Foundation is raising funds to meet the increased need for basic services in Newaygo County.

Please help support immediate needs in our community by giving at facommunityfoundation.org/covid.

Readjust: Intermediate recovery
The nonprofit sector is adjusting to a new environment. Organizations that provide essential services must adapt to fewer volunteers and new requirements for how they interact with the public. Planned fundraising events may be cancelled. There may be fewer donors as more families struggle because of unemployment. Schools will need additional support as well as hardware and software to move to digital instruction. The list seems limitless. To facilitate intermediate recovery, the Community Foundation is adjusting our grantmaking. This includes grants that have already been awarded, those waiting to be paid, and those under review. We will maximize flexibility and allow project grants to be converted to address the current need.

Businesses are also making major adjustments. Some businesses have a heavier workload but more restrictions on how they do their work. Others have no work at all, especially many of the small businesses that are the backbone of our rural economy.

It is critical that all entities in need of support—whether for profit or nonprofit—seek all available federal and state dollars. We know it is a complex, complicated, and frustrating process. But it is important that local businesses and organizations stick with it and pursue all available opportunities. The longer they wait, the further down the line they will be. Community Foundation resources cannot come close to what can be accessed through government resources.

The CARES Act, signed into law March 27, 2020, provided federal government support in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis and associated economic fallout. The Paycheck Protection Program gave businesses—both for-profit and nonprofit—the opportunity to apply for a potentially forgivable loan to keep employees working and help with basic expenses such as rent and utilities. Because of overwhelming requests, the funds were exhausted on April 16; however, additional funds may be appropriated. There are other available resources as well.

Now is the time to be prepared for new opportunities as they arise. To help local nonprofits and for-profit businesses navigate available resources, we have identified experts in the community to provide guidance. Organizations should also consult their business advisors—attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, and bankers—to make the best decisions for current and future viability.

  • Nonprofit agencies can contact Dan Wheat, community investment officer, Fremont Area Community Foundation: dwheat@facommunityfoundation.org or 231.766.1210.
  • Businesses with 50 employees or fewer can contact Don Farmer, independent consultant retained by the Community Foundation: farmer.d.w@comcast.net or 231.928.9155.
  • Businesses with more than 50 employees can contact Julie Burrell, Newaygo County business development coordinator, The Right Place: burrellj@rightplace.org or 231.335.1985.

Our Respond and Readjust phases already overlap. We can’t predict how long these phases will last or the magnitude of the need. We also must ensure that the Community Foundation is viable for the recovery period and beyond. The community will need us well beyond the immediate crisis and the intermediate recovery period, and stock market fluctuations may impact our grantmaking for many years to come.

Restructure: Long-term recovery
Newaygo County is a strong, collaborative community. We already work together well. But underneath is a fragility that is being dramatically revealed. Far too many families live too close to the edge. We entered this crisis with over 40 percent of working families unable to make ends meet and that number could continue to grow. Mental health supports will be critical to a community recovering from trauma. Additionally, far too many businesses lack the resources to weather the storm. Our community will require additional support such as human resources and legal and accounting expertise to get back to work and put structures back in place.

As this crisis continues to unwind, we will find ourselves in a different environment. It is likely that some organizations and businesses will no longer be with us, but the needs will continue. As we rally together to determine how to meet ongoing needs, the long-term recovery will be a time of opportunity and a time to restructure in ways that ensure capacity to meet the next crisis stronger and even more unified.

What we do today will have a deep and lasting impact on tomorrow. The Community Foundation is deploying as many tools as we can leverage to ensure that we are here for our community today, tomorrow, and forever!

Best regards,

Carla A. Roberts
President and CEO

Fremont Area Community Foundation is currently monitoring the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in both the state and our local region. We have taken steps to protect the health of our staff, trustees, and others by closing our office to the public, postponing events, and encouraging staff to work remotely. We also know that many of our nonprofit partners are now experiencing an increased need for services, especially as they work to support the most vulnerable members of our communities. We have worked hard to determine the best ways for our community and philanthropy to respond.

On March 19, we established the Community Response Fund to rapidly deploy resources to nonprofit organizations in Newaygo County as well as the three counties served by our affiliate foundations: Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola. The fund will provide quick help to organizations serving vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19 and will give generous community members an easy way to support them.

Donate now

Give now to support the organizations, programs, and staff on the front lines of response in your community. You can designate your gift to a specific county.
Give now

Apply for a grant

Is your organization supporting children, older adults, and other vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19? Apply for a grant from our Community Response Fund. Grants will be considered that address issues such as childcare, food insecurity, healthcare, transportation, financial assistance, general operating support, and other identified needs. For more information, contact Mark Petz, director of community investment, by email or at 231.519.1464.

To view a list of grants made from the fund so far, visit the grants awarded page of our website and sort by “Community Response Fund.”

Other resources

If you are looking for food, housing, transportation, or financial assistance, please call 211. You can also access a list of resources from their website.

For more information on COVID-19 and local response actions, visit the following websites:

Updated Monday, March 16

In order to proactively guard the health of our staff and their families, as well as our many stakeholders, Fremont Area Community Foundation will be closing our office starting tomorrow, March 17. Normal functions will continue as much as possible, with many of our staff members working adaptive schedules from home. You can reach our team via email or by calling the main line.

We also know this crisis is impacting those in our community who are most vulnerable and we are working hard to determine the best ways for committed individuals and local philanthropy to respond. Stay tuned to our website and social media for ways you can get involved.

 

Original post: Friday, March 13

A message from Carla Roberts, president and CEO, regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) preparation and support

To our community,

Fremont Area Community Foundation is currently monitoring the local impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in both the state and our local region. While the situation is constantly evolving, our highest priority is to preserve the health of our employees, trustees, grantees, donors, and larger community. As such, we wanted to provide an update on the active steps currently underway (as of 3/13/2020).

Our office
We are taking every precaution to protect the health and well-being of our employees. Our internal response plan follows the guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control (such as hand washing, regular sanitation of surfaces, and requiring sick employees to stay home) and our essential services team will regularly monitor and comply with public health requests and recommendations. It may ultimately be necessary to close our office to ensure the safety of our staff and larger community. If such a step is taken, we will let stakeholders know and make every effort to continue to offer vital services such as accepting and deploying emergency funds.

Upcoming events
All Community Foundation events being held in the next few months are being reviewed for possible cancellation, postponement, or alternate accommodation (i.e. virtual meeting). Once decisions are made, registrants and stakeholders will be informed in a timely manner through email, phone call, social media, or on our website.

Nonprofit resources
There will likely be a need for increased services for the nonprofits in our community and philanthropy may have a role to play. Please be assured we are in discussions and exploring options to support our community and we will share more information as it becomes available. We remain informed about emerging vital needs through Newaygo County Emergency Services and other channels.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. In challenging times like these, we find ourselves exceedingly grateful for the caring and collaborative nature of the people in this community. As we learn more about local needs, we will share our responses and welcome hearing from you in the meantime.

Best regards,

Carla A. Roberts
President and CEO

Local health and human service organizations and community members involved in family caregiving are invited to attend a special workshop on March 5 designed to help you better understand the caregiving experience and to build community awareness and support.

Mapping Ourselves will introduce participants to several tools that will help you gain a better understanding of how you give and receive care, how caregiving impacts your life, and how communities can work together to better support caregivers. Each tool is designed to help you observe, visualize, and analyze different aspects of your wellbeing and community.

Mapping Ourselves
March 5 | 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
NC RESA Educational Service Center (4747 W 48th Street, Fremont)

The workshop is free and includes lunch, but space is limited. RSVP today

This workshop is part of the We All Care initiative presented by the Elderly Needs Fund at the Community Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, and Atlas of Caregiving, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to researching and promoting a greater understanding of caregiving. Similar workshops are also being held in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Lansing.