On October 6, Fremont Area Community Foundation hosted more than 60 donors for lunch and an update on the organization’s strategic planning. The luncheon was held at The Shack Country Inn on Robinson Lake in White Cloud.

Shelly Kasprzycki, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO, welcomed guests and, after lunch, shared updates on what the organization has learned through its strategic planning process. Data gathering to begin the process included analyzing research on local needs as well as interviews and focus groups with donors, nonprofit leaders, and other community members.

Data showed that while poverty has fallen since 2010, the pandemic and inflation have increased food insecurity. Affordable housing continues to be an issue as well, with estimates showing our area is around 250 houses short of the local need.

Kasprzycki noted that feedback from donors highlighted the Community Foundation’s stewardship and integrity. “For staff and trustees, that’s the highest compliment,” she said. She also shared feedback from grantees, which included interest in a proactive response to big issues and creating a more streamlined, transparent grantmaking process.

“We’re thinking about these emerging themes and how we build them in,” said Kasprzycki, who expects trustees to approve a final strategic plan by year’s end. “We’re always listening and always interested in what you need from us.  We’re so grateful for people like you.”

More than 50 colleges, job training programs, military organizations, and community resources were represented at College and Career Night Out on September 29 at Fremont High School.

The annual event drew hundreds of students and families from across Newaygo County to learn more about post-secondary education and job training, financial aid, and more. WE CAN! Newaygo County—the local career and college access network—and Fremont Area Community Foundation partnered on the event.

Melissa Miller, administrator of career and college readiness for the Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, said that the event was designed to spark curiosity and connection regarding college and career opportunities for local students.

“With so many factors that can influence a student’s decision to pursue higher education or training after high school, this event continues to serve families by bringing numerous career and college resources and representatives under one roof,” said Miller. “Families are able to make connections, get their questions answered, and hopefully realize there are many resources to support them as they navigate this selection process.”

Attendees enjoyed pizza and were able to attend informational sessions on financial aid, choosing a college, the Promise Zone, and career preparation through apprenticeships. After informational sessions concluded, a college and career fair in the gym allowed students to speak with representatives from a wide variety of public and private colleges and universities, military branches, trade schools, and career training programs.

Representatives from Early College Newaygo County, Gerber Foundation, Michigan Works! West Central, Michigan Student Aid, Newaygo County Area Promise Zone, Newaygo County Career-Tech Center, Telamon, and the Community Foundation were also available to share more about the resources their organizations offer to students and families.

Event organizers extend their thanks to their hosts at Fremont High School, the community members and students who volunteered during the event, session presenters, and the local businesses who supported food and beverages, including Biggby Coffee, Family Fare, and Walmart.

As summer closes and the crisp air begins, we are delighted at the Community Foundation to see many exciting endeavors taking place. Thank you to the many individuals who gave us feedback as we engage in strategic planning. The trustees and staff are hard at work listening to the community and finding innovative ways to enhance our philanthropy. The Community Foundation belongs to Newaygo County, and we are very cognizant of the legacy we hold and how our work can impact the future. Stay tuned as we will share what we’ve learned and what we have planned as the trustees approve new goals by year’s end.

One another note, it is once again time for College and Career Night Out coming up on September 29. Our scholarship application will open just a few days later on October 1. The Community Foundation trustees and staff are so proud of our commitment to educational success. To learn more about our scholarships, please visit facommunityfoundation.org/scholarships or call us today at 231.924.5350.

And now for a moment of gratitude: “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”-Voltaire. My first year as president and CEO is nearly complete, and it has been the most rewarding of my career. My family has fallen in love with Newaygo County. Thank you for making us feel welcomed as community members, and for the joy and privilege of serving as president and CEO.

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently awarded nearly $2.5 million in its first community grant round of 2022.

Grant support was awarded to a variety of organizations serving Newaygo County residents, including programs addressing economic growth, literacy, housing, food insecurity, and more. Most grant awards concentrated on the Community Foundation’s three focus areas of community and economic development, education, and poverty to prosperity.

More than 40 grants were awarded in total, including a $25,550 grant to The Right Place Foundation. The grant will support the development of a strategic plan to preserve and showcase the communities of Woodland Park and Idlewild and promote economic development. An experienced consultant will be hired to lead the collaborative project. In addition to the grant, three donors contributed a total of $4,450 from their donor advised funds.

Grant Public Schools received a $3,809 grant, along with contributions totaling $1,500 from two donor advised funds, for their Salmon in the Classroom program. This hands-on learning opportunity will allow Grant third graders to observe and study the life cycle of salmon, raising them from eggs until the fish are released into the Muskegon River.

A $39,200 grant was awarded to Hope 101 Ministry’s transitional housing program. The organization serves individuals and families in Newaygo County experiencing homelessness and provides mentors and case management to help residents set goals and achieve self-sufficiency.

The Community Foundation accepts community grant applications online twice each year. Applications for the second grant round of 2022 are due on September 1.

View a full list of grants awarded, as well as information on how to apply for a grant, at facommunityfoundation.org/grants.

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently held its annual meeting where members elected three new trustees. New board officers were also elected.

Todd DeKryger, Ken DeLaat, and Julie Tatko were each elected by the members to join the Community Foundation board. 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.

DeKryger is the regional manager for sustainable agricultural development at Nestlé Nutrition North America. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Michigan State University, including a PhD in resource development.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to serve the community,” said DeKryger of joining the board. “I’ve always been impressed with the Community Foundation and what it has been able to support. I look forward to serving.”

DeLaat is a freelance writer and creator of Near North Now. He has also spent his career working in mental health in various capacities and leadership positions.

“I worked in nonprofit organizations for most of my life,” said DeLaat. “Coming from the nonprofit sector, I always admired the work of the Community Foundation. It’s a real honor to be asked to serve. I hope I can be part of the solutions for issues we face in our community.”

Tatko has a background in community health. She is currently president and CEO of Baldwin Family Health Care, which has facilities in White Cloud and Grant.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we can look at healthcare as part of the Community Foundation’s poverty to prosperity work,” said Tatko. “I am excited to get to know other people and sectors here. I love the area and appreciate how people here work together to improve the community.”

The new trustees were elected to fill vacancies, including those left as Joseph Roberson and Carolyn Hummel retired from the board. Roberson was first elected in 2012 and most recently served as chair of the board. Hummel was elected in 2013. She was formerly chair of the Community Foundation’s Education Committee and continues to serve on the committee.

Following the members meeting, the Board of Trustees met and elected officers. Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark was elected chair of the board, with Lola Harmon-Ramsey named vice chair and Mikhail Salacina named secretary. Bill Alsover will remain as treasurer and Dr. Susan Wente will serve as trustee-at-large.

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently expanded their small business loan program through Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) to support businesses in Newaygo, Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties.

The Community Foundation created the Small Business Recovery Loan Program with MSUFCU in 2020 to help small businesses in Newaygo County impacted by the pandemic. Now, the Community Foundation is broadening that assistance to business start-ups and expansions as well as pandemic-related needs. Loans will also be available to businesses in the counties served by the Community Foundation’s three affiliate foundations.

“Local small businesses are crucial to the economy in our region,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, Community Foundation president and CEO. “Through our partnership with MSUFCU, we are excited to increase our support of local businesses.”

“MSUFCU recognizes the role small businesses play in communities—they create opportunities, energize the economic base, and cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurialism,” said April Clobes, president and CEO of MSUFCU. “We are pleased to partner with Fremont Area Community Foundation to provide small businesses access to affordable financing through this program.”

Through the partnership with MSUFCU, loans of up to $50,000 are available at a low interest rate. For-profit and nonprofit businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees are eligible to apply. The business must be headquartered in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, or Osceola counties.

To inquire about eligibility, start the application process, or get more information, contact Dan Wheat, community investment officer, at 231.924.7616 or email loan@facommunityfoundation.org.

Dear friends,

As spring fully blooms, I am reminded of the promise of young people as I see them plan for prom, summer jobs, and graduation. So many hopes and dreams are on the precipice of reality. And thus, the Community Foundation plays an important role by investing in young lives. We have opened over 2,400 Kickstart to Career savings accounts and, last year, we awarded scholarships to more than 350 students and funded more than $1.8 million in education-related grants.

I am troubled when I hear the derogatory term “snowflake” to describe youth as lazy, protected, and entitled. What I see here in Newaygo County are hardworking kids—children that need our loving guidance and just enough freedom to develop their own minds and sense of self. Our young citizens will be the leaders of the future and the workforce to keep our economy growing. They will guide family values. I hope they will also be able to break the cycle of contempt for our fellow people and find real solutions to long-term problems.

If you need an example of the tenacity, creativity, and leadership of young people, take a look at our Youth Advisory Committee. They engage in grantmaking, leadership, volunteerism, and building friendships across school boundaries, socioeconomic status, and geography. The world today is a complicated place with criticism often overriding compassion, but I am heartened to see these students’ commitment to making the world around them better.

We’re proud to partner with you to help young people through opportunities like Kickstart to Career, scholarships, and more. Kids are doing so much more than we realize in sometimes very challenging circumstances. Hope shines eternal!

Fremont Area Community Foundation is expanding a partnership with Northern Initiatives to provide loans and technical assistance for small businesses in Newaygo, Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties. The expansion allows the Community Foundation to support local businesses in the areas served by their three affiliate foundations as well as in Newaygo County.

Loans are available to entrepreneurs and businesses looking to start or grow their business in the four-county region. Loan recipients also have access to a variety of trainings, tools, coaching, and other supports. They can work one-on-one with a coach as well as access Northern Initiative’s online business resource portal, Initiate.

“Local small businesses are the backbone of the economy in our region,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, Community Foundation president and CEO. “We have been proud to partner with Northern Initiatives in Newaygo County over the last several years and are excited to support this expansion of their services here and in Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties.”

“We help entrepreneurs who have been overlooked or denied by other financial institutions and give them the support they need to start and grow their businesses,” said Elissa Sangalli, president of Northern Initiatives. “Those businesses go on to support families, neighborhoods, and communities.”

The Community Foundation has partnered with Northern Initiatives—a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)—since 2016 to create a regional revolving loan fund to serve businesses who may not quality for traditional funding. In 2021, Northern Initiatives facilitated more than $475,000 in loans to Newaygo County businesses.

Interested businesses can apply directly through Northern Initiatives. Learn more at northerninitiatives.org.

On February 24, the Community Foundation hosted its fifth Stronger Together Series virtual event with a conversation on the experiences of local women in the workforce and during the pandemic.

Shelly Kasprzycki, Community Foundation president and CEO, welcomed the audience and introduced the evening’s moderator, Dr. Jennifer Drake, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Grand Valley State University.

Drake began by sharing findings from the 2021 Women in the Michigan Workforce report. The report found that between February and December 2020, approximately 136,000 Michigan women left the workforce and that women working full-time make about 78 cents on the dollar compared to men working full-time. In more encouraging news, Drake noted that a Pew Research Center report found women have made significant educational gains, with higher rates of college enrollment and degree completion than men.

Along with Drake, the evening’s panel included Julie Burrell, Newaygo County’s economic development director through The Right Place; Carolyn Hummel, retired educator and the first female principal of Fremont Middle School; and Melissa Dykman, Newaygo County Probate Court Judge.

When asked how their identity as women shaped expectations others had of them, Hummel talked about being the only girl in her advanced math class in high school. “My friends said, ‘Math is just too hard for girls,’” she remembered.

Other panelists commented that pressure often comes from within. “The pressure really comes from me,” said Burrell. “I definitely put pressure on myself to wear all the hats and do all the things.”

When asked about barriers they have faced, Hummel talked about being denied a promotion after asking why a male coworker with less experience was making more than she was.

“At that time, by asking that question, I was blacklisted,” said Hummel. “I realize now if it hadn’t been for that, I would never have gotten my dream job, but it was a little traumatizing at first.”

Panelists also spoke about the experiences and people who have helped them grow. Burrell mentioned the importance of finding an ally. “Whether you call it mentorship, allyship—I think it’s really helpful for anyone in their career, but especially women,” she said. “You need to have people in your corner.”

Dykman talked about the importance of growing up with parents who “believed there was nothing a boy could do that their daughters couldn’t.” She also shared that she is grateful to have built her career in Newaygo County, “where I had great people to work with.” Dykman said that the lawyers and judges she interacted with “never treated me any differently. They were all invested in me being the best I could be and teaching me.”

During a time for questions at the end of the event, the panelists emphasized the importance of women encouraging other women.

“It’s important to identify those women you see who are up-and-coming and embrace them and be their advocate,” said Burrell.

Dykman added, “It goes back to something like today’s event. Having these discussions and hearing from multiple generations not only helps us understand where we’re at and what we need to do to improve but also where we can from. People like Carolyn made it easier for me, and I can make it easier for those coming up.”

Stronger Together is a series of events designed to look at differences, identity, and the stories that shape our lives. More information on the series—including recordings of past events—can be found at facommunityfoundation.org/stronger-together.

The Community Foundation awarded $3.3 million in its second community grant round of 2021, bringing the total awarded in both rounds in 2021 to nearly $5.6 million.

Grant support was awarded to a variety of organizations serving Newaygo County residents, including programs addressing economic development, college and career access, housing, literacy, and more. Most grant awards concentrated on the Community Foundation’s three focus areas of community and economic development, education, and poverty to prosperity.

More than 50 grants were awarded in total, including a $100,000 grant to Newaygo County for recycling services, continuing the Community Foundation’s long history of supporting recycling. Another grant for $133,000 was awarded to Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency (NC RESA) to support WE CAN! Newaygo County and the Newaygo County Area Promise Zone. Both NC RESA programs work to increase access to post-secondary education and training as well as help address barriers to success for local students.

Several local youth camps were also awarded grants to support summer camp scholarships. These scholarships help to cover the cost of a camp experience for local children who may have difficulty affording it otherwise. Scholarships typically cover 75 percent of camp registration.

The Community Foundation accepts community grant applications online twice each year. Applications for the first grant round of 2022 are due on March 1.

View a full list of grants awarded, as well as information on how to apply for a grant, at facommunityfoundation.org/grants.

Dear friends:

As we begin a new year, I enjoy the task of preparing a new notebook, full of possibilities, ideas, tasks, and plans. I am reminded of the words of songwriter Brad Paisley, “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book.” Together, I want our community to write an excellent 2022 book.

We are kicking off 2022 following a banner year for grantmaking and investments. Changes in leadership took place, and our team feels stronger than ever. Change can be difficult, but the Community Foundation team rose to the challenge, and Newaygo County residents couldn’t have been more welcoming to me.

Coming in 2022, we anticipate enhancing our community investments through strengthened grant processes and refreshed community partnerships. I appreciate all the visits I’ve had with residents and look forward to many more. The legacy of past donors and involvement of current donors has funded many programs supporting the reduction of poverty, our vibrant arts and cultural community, preservation of history, literacy, youth development, recycling, economic development work, and scholarships. The breadth and depth of the grants awarded is amazing, and we are grateful to you for being a part of it.

Though the past two years have been difficult, I believe this community has great assets and, together, we can overcome the challenges we face with real solutions, one step at a time. Our Board of Trustees and staff will look at our lessons learned and update our strategic plan and how we implement grants, partnerships, and work with donors.

Thank you for being a part of our Community Foundation, and we look forward to sharing exciting updates this year.

On September 30, Fremont Area Community Foundation hosted its fourth Stronger Together Series virtual event with a conversation exploring what it means to be Hispanic/Latinx in Newaygo County.

Carla Roberts welcomed the audience for her last Community Foundation event before her retirement as president and CEO on October 1. She explained the goals of the overall series, including amplifying marginalized or overlooked voices and exploring the ways differences enhance our community. Roberts also shared that the evening was focused on creating a safe space for honest conversations and encouraging all of us to grapple with misconceptions and consider new perspectives.

“Hispanic/Latinx represents the second largest ethnic group in our county, but what does it mean to be of Spanish-speaking descent in an English-speaking area?” asked Roberts. “What does it mean to have a foot in two different cultures? And what misconceptions prevent our neighbors from feeling like they truly belong?”

The moderator for the evening was Carlos Sanchez. Born in Mexico City, Sanchez is the director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State University and active in many organizations and projects in West Michigan.

“I’m excited just to share the stories we’re going to hear,” said Sanchez. “The folks that are invited to this panel are going to share their personal stories, and it’s not easy to share them. I hope the people who are watching right now gain knowledge, first of all, but also empathy for their stories.”

The panel included Laura Rodriguez, director of the Croton Township Library; her son Benancio Rodriguez, currently a PhD student at UCLA; Juan Ochoa, owner of Peak Heating and Cooling; and Carolina Heredia-Contreras, a kindergarten teacher in Fremont Christian School’s Spanish immersion program.

Sanchez began the discussion by asking panelists what it’s like to be Hispanic/Latinx in Newaygo County, while noting that “just like other cultures or other groups, Latinos are not monolithic. Our experiences are different.”

Most panelists mentioned “ups and downs” and experiencing moments of feeling different or like an outsider, although that perception has shifted over the years.

“We’re definitely the minority here in Newaygo County,” said Ochoa. “I always felt like I was an outsider but over the years, I’ve seen a big transition. Is it perfect? No, but there has been a change and I can feel it.”

Benancio Rodriguez mentioned that when he was treated differently, he could also look to others who experience similar situations for support. “It stings that there’s times you’re treated differently but at other times, because you’re not alone, you’re able to find a community within that,” he said.

When discussing common misconceptions, Heredia-Contreras—who comes from the Dominican Republic—noted that “Some people think all Hispanic people are from Mexico or that all the food we eat is Mexican food.” She said that while people here may initially have misconceptions about her culture, they have been welcoming and eager to learn more.

Ochoa mentioned that another misconception is that “just because you look Latino or Mexican doesn’t mean you speak Spanish.” While he learned English in elementary school in Grant, some other panelists spoke mainly English at home and learned or re-learned Spanish later.

Panelists also spoke about the value in listening to the stories of others without assumptions and the importance of addressing misconceptions or prejudice when you hear them.

Calmly bringing offensive comments to someone’s attention “is the way we eventually learn and grown,” said Benancio Rodriguez. “We teach each other how to be a little more respectful.”

Sanchez shared that he believes the difficult experiences of our society over the last two years have helped encourage more people to have important conversations like these.

“People are more willing to respond, more willing to stand up, more willing to say something,” said Sanchez. “So now we find allies. It’s not ok anymore to stand on the sidelines. We have to address it in the best way possible.”

Stronger Together is a series of events designed to look at differences, identity, and the stories that shape our lives. As future events in the series are announced, information can be found on the Community Foundation’s social media channels (@FremontAreaCF) and on its website. The website also features recordings and other resources from past events in the series.

College and Career Night Out is a fun evening designed to help you explore college and career possibilities, gather scholarship information, and find out more about financial aid! There will be food, great informational sessions, and the opportunity to meet with representatives from colleges, universities, trade schools, career training programs, and military branches. Masks required.

5-6 p.m.

Sign in at the front entrance and enjoy free food.

5:30-6 p.m. | Informational sessions

Explore the Promise Zone
You’ve heard Newaygo County is a Promise Zone, but what does that mean for your future? Join us to learn more about how the Promise Zone works and how it can help you.

Finding Money for College
College costs keep rising, but there’s a lot of financial aid out there! Come learn about college affordability options, from federal and state aid to community-based scholarship programs.

How to Choose a College
Unsure which college to attend? Newaygo County college advisors will lead a discussion to help guide you toward the school and career path that suits you best!

Preparing for a Great Career
Apprenticeships are a great way to prepare for careers in many in-demand fields! Learn more about how an apprenticeship can help prepare you for a rewarding skilled trades career.

6-7:30 p.m. | College fair

Meet with representatives from colleges, universities, trade schools, career training programs, and military branches. Learn more about FAFSA, scholarships, Early College Newaygo County, the Promise Zone, and the Newaygo County Career-Tech Center.

College and Career Night Out is brought to you in partnership by Fremont Area Community Foundation and WE CAN! Newaygo County.

Questions? Contact WE CAN! Newaygo County at 231.924.8857.

Confirmed college fair attendees as of September 20:

Adrian College
Alma College
Aquinas College
Army National Guard
Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at Northern Michigan University
Baker College
Calvin University
Central Michigan University
College for Creative Studies
Compass College of Cinematic Arts
Davenport University
Douglas J. Aveda Institute
Eastern Michigan University
Ferris State University
Finlandia University
Grand Canyon University
Grand Rapids Community College
Grand Valley State University
Great Lakes Boat Building School
Hope College
Indiana Wesleyan University
Ironworkers Local 25 Training Center
Kendall College of Art and Design
Kettering University
Kuyper College
Lake Superior State University
Lawrence Technological University
Lourdes University
Michigan Army National Guard
Michigan Building Trades Council
Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights
Michigan State University
Michigan Technological University
Muskegon Community College
Northern Michigan University
Northwestern Michigan College
Northwood University
Oakland University
Olivet College
Saginaw Valley State University
Sheet Metal Workers Local 7
Spring Arbor University
St. Mary’s College
Universal Technical Institute
University of Alabama
University of Tampa
Wayne State University
Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University – College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
West Michigan Plumbers, Fitters, and Service Trades Local 174

After taking the summer off, the Stronger Together Series is back with an exciting event unpacking what it means to be Hispanic/Latinx in Newaygo County.

Stronger Together Series: Unpacking Hispanic/Latinx Culture
September 30 | Livestreamed | 6-7:30 p.m.

Join us on September 30 to hear from a diverse and multigenerational panel of community members, led by moderator Carlos Sanchez of Ferris State University. The event will feature stories about belonging, misconceptions, and heritage from the lived experiences of our Hispanic/Latinx neighbors.

The September 30 event is free to attend, but registration is required. Register now

The event is part of the broader Stronger Together Series, designed to explore identity, the stories that shape our lives, and the ways our differences enhance the community and ultimately make us stronger.

At the end of September, our President and CEO Carla Roberts will retire after 10 years leading Fremont Area Community Foundation. Recently, we sat down with Carla as she reflected on her decade with the Community Foundation, what she is most proud of, what she will miss, and more.

As you think back to when you started, what has surprised you about the Community Foundation or Newaygo County?

 Carla: Newaygo County has changed a lot in the last 10 years and one of the most salient examples is if you look at the Newaygo County Tourism Council. Everything about how they present the county on the web and in the publications, the things you can go do, the summer top 10 list—it is amazing to me how far that has come in the period of time I’ve been here.

We know anecdotally that now parents are much more engaged with wanting to see their students go on to post-secondary training. That starts with kindergarten through Kickstart to Career and, of course, all the work with WE CAN! Newaygo County and the Promise Zone. All of that has been put into place in the last 10 years. There’s a different climate than there was and a different kind of talk on the street than there used to be.

What are your proudest accomplishments over the last 10 years?

I would say our staff team is one of the things I’m most proud of. We have a good group of people who work well together and who are smart. I’m very, very proud of the team that we have created and know that this team will continue to do good work in the future.

What will you miss about this work?

I’m going to miss all the people I work with every day. I’m going to miss sitting here watching the prairie go from season to season. It’s a very peaceful place to work.

I’m going to miss the sense of achievement, of doing big things. The work here is very much oriented to building the best community that can exist. The levers of education, economic development, and reducing poverty I know in my heart are the right levers for achieving the best possible economy, and that’s what improves the quality of life. That’s what makes it a good place to live—when everyone is doing well.

We’re not there yet because these are long-term things. Then, when you’ve got big waves of activity like we had with the multi-pronged crisis last year, it feels like it washes away everything you’ve done. I know it hasn’t, but it feels like that at first. You just keep going. It’s like the stock market: it goes up and down but over time it should have an upward trajectory. When you do social change work, it’s the same thing. There are going to be setbacks, but you’re looking for a long-term trajectory toward betterment. If you’re achieving that, then that’s what you want to do and that’s the most you can do.

What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned along the way?

I have learned so much in the last 10 years! My biggest personal growth and professional development has come from the staff. Everybody here has taught me something. Every single person has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing something about life. I appreciate all of them so much.

I also learned how to put together a theory of change. I can’t say I had deep experience with that before. It certainly took us a long time to shuffle the pieces and figure out how it would fit together in a way that would make sense, not only to us but to our grantees and to other people in the community. And I think we landed on it.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to removing the clutter from my house. That’s what I want to do first. I actually want to simplify my life a bit.

I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica, and I would like to get the seventh continent in. That’s going to be hard, but can you imagine going down there and seeing penguins? Then I could say I’ve been to all seven continents in the world.

 What are some favorite memories of your time here?

There’s a rhythm and a cycle to life and to the activities that happen in the communities, and it makes me smile just talking about it. And the parades! The parades in small towns are just so wonderful. I get the biggest kick out of those big pieces of farm equipment they bring out for parades. I’m going to look back and smile about that.

I always enjoyed trustee meetings because our trustees are so involved with the Community Foundation. They’re so engaged. They give a lot, especially this last year when they’ve been doing the [president and CEO] search.

[This job] has been the capstone of my career. That’s what I said I wanted it to be in my first interview with the board. It has been an opportunity to bring what I gained through a career in nonprofit work and in philanthropy into this place and try different things to see what might create real change for people and make improvements in the community. I’m really happy about that. I feel like my career is complete.

After 17 months of virtual meetings, our Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) kicked off a new school year with a teambuilding retreat at Camp Henry on August 4.

Returning YAC members spent the morning getting reacquainted and taking part in activities that emphasized teamwork, communication skills, and facing challenges creatively. Together, YAC members navigated a group tightrope walk, obstacle courses, and rode on a giant swing. The half-day retreat served as the official start of a new school year of activities for the group.

“This year, I’m most looking forward to meeting new people,” said Iris Herrera, an incoming junior from Newaygo who will also serve as this year’s YAC secretary. “Now that I’m a part of YAC’s executive team, I’m learning more in depth about what we do. Every year is a little different, and I’m looking forward to learning.”

YAC students meet once a month from September to May to learn more about philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, leadership, grantmaking, and more. Each March, students review grant requests for programs that impact local youth and recommend funding. In 2021, $62,500 was awarded to programs offering mentoring opportunities, outdoor recreation, mental health resources, and more for Newaygo County youth.

This year, YAC students will also continue to evaluate the results of their most recent Newaygo County youth needs assessment, which included a survey of more than 900 local high school students.

YAC typically includes 24 members and is made up of a student from each grade at each Newaygo County public high school as well as the homeschool community. Bringing together students from different grades and school districts allows for a diversity of perspectives on the committee and gives members the chance to get to know peers from other schools and towns.

YAC is currently looking for incoming ninth graders with leadership potential to join the committee for the 2021-2022 school year. Students entering ninth grade this fall at a Newaygo County high school—or who live in Newaygo County and homeschool—are eligible to apply. Potential applicants should be willing to attend all meetings, participate in occasional community service activities, and be responsible students with a positive attitude.

For more information about YAC or to apply, visit facommunityfoundation.org/yac.

Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees has selected Shelly Kasprzycki as the organization’s new president and CEO, effective September 27, 2021. Kasprzycki will succeed Carla Roberts, who will retire at the end of September after 10 years with the Community Foundation.

Kasprzycki, a lifelong Michigan resident, comes to the Community Foundation after most recently serving as president and CEO of Michigan Humanities. Prior to this position, she was executive director of Greater Jackson Habitat for Humanity and president and CEO of Jackson Community Foundation. Her career in nonprofit executive leadership and philanthropy has spanned the last 20 years.

“We are thrilled to welcome Shelly to the Community Foundation,” said Joe Roberson, FACF board chair and chair of the search committee. “She brings extensive experience in collaborative leadership, community outreach and engagement, and nonprofit best practices. We look forward to the ways she will utilize her expertise and strategic leadership to guide the vision and goals of the Community Foundation forward.”

Kasprzycki was selected via an extensive nationwide search conducted by executive search firm Kittleman & Associates and coordinated by a local search committee made up of Community Foundation trustees and a cross section of community members.

“We built a candidate profile for this position with input from donors, grantees, staff, trustees, and the local community,” said Lori Tubbergen Clark, FACF trustee and search committee vice chair. “Shelly checks all the boxes and brings deep experience in nonprofit development and philanthropy in rural communities. The search committee is thrilled to welcome her to Newaygo County, and we know she will be an invaluable asset to our community.”

Kasprzycki began her career in public health at the Michigan Department of Community Health in Jackson County and later led the Nonprofit Network, a regional chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Jackson Community Foundation. In her position at Michigan Humanities, she worked with a 25-member board as well as many statewide and national partners, including those in the service area of Fremont Area Community Foundation and its affiliates. Under Kasprzycki’s leadership, Michigan Humanities doubled its assets and grantmaking.

“Working for an organization with a statewide reach has given Shelly a unique ability to connect the priorities of all kinds of communities and organizations,” said Roberson. “She’s a master of collaboration and relationship-building. We can’t wait to see the ways she will build on the great work of those that came before her and make our organization even more effective.”

As a nonprofit and community leader, Kasprzycki has been honored as Jackson College’s Martin Luther King Jr Medal of Honor recipient, Rotarian of the Year, and as the Eastern Michigan University College of Health and Human Services Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. She has volunteered for many organizations, including the Jackson Women’s History Council and the Jackson County Michigan Historical Society.

Born in a rural community herself, Kasprzycki grew up enjoying nature, riding horses, and participating in 4-H. She looks forward to her new position and relocation to Newaygo County.

“I’m delighted to be selected to serve as the next president of Fremont Area Community Foundation,” said Kasprzycki. “I’ve followed the work of the Community Foundation and its affiliates and am deeply impressed by the community commitment and strategic initiatives. I hope to continue the wonderful work and effective strategies already in place to improve the quality of life for all in our region.”

Fremont Area Community Foundation held its annual members meeting on June 17 where members elected two new trustees. Three incumbent trustees were also elected to new terms.

Travis Bull and Susan Wente were each elected by members to join the Community Foundation board. 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.

Bull is a financial advisor with Edward Jones. He has served on the boards of TrueNorth Community Services and Spectrum Health and is a past president of the Newaygo Rotary.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Fremont Area Community Foundation,” said Bull. “The foundation is an unbelievable asset that we have in Newaygo County, and I am truly excited to serve on this board. I am focused on strengthening and making a difference in our community.”

Wente lives in Newaygo and has served on the Amazing X Charitable Trust board and the Community Foundation’s Poverty to Prosperity Committee. She is a nurse midwife and has developed an outreach program for Amish healthcare.

“Philanthropy has been core to my life and how I was raised,” said Wente. “In philanthropy you always get back more than you give. I look forward to learning more about the community and the needs of the community.”

Bull and Wente were elected to fill vacancies left as Cathy Kissinger and Tom Williams retired from the board. Williams was first elected as a trustee in 2012 and served three terms. Kissinger was elected in 2011 to fill an unexpired term and has served as the board’s vice chair and treasurer.

During the members meeting, trustee incumbents Micheal Anderson, Mary Rangel, and Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark were also each reelected to new three-year terms.

Following the members meeting, the Board of Trustees met and elected officers. Continuing in their positions are Joseph Roberson as chair, Tubbergen Clark as vice chair, and Lola Harmon-Ramsey as secretary. Bill Alsover was appointed treasurer.

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.