Becoming president and CEO of Fremont Area Community Foundation is the biggest honor I’ve ever undertaken. Being a CEO entails leadership skills, integrity, and being able to adapt to the needs of a community and your team.

I would estimate that 80% of my job is people and 20% is administrative. I spend a good deal of my time listening and building relationships. It is fascinating to move to an entirely new community, and it was essential that I get to know trustees, staff team members, community leaders, donors, and nonprofit leaders well. I find it remarkable, too, how much you draw on your past career, including my time as a server, as a Habitat for Humanity director, and as CEO of other philanthropic organizations.

As a CEO, as I begin to understand the landscape and people, I’m able to build trust. This helps ensure the Community Foundation’s core values of compassionate and collaborative leadership, trusted stewardship, and courageous and responsive action can be carried out. Nothing is possible alone. Our trustee and staff teams carry forth the work of the Community Foundation in grants, scholarships, and convening in partnership with donors and citizens in order to benefit all people of Newaygo County, as well as those in our affiliate counties.

There are some administrative pieces of the puzzle as well, including developing a strategic framework, ensuring fiscal stewardship, reviewing policies, educating oneself on best practices in philanthropy, and ensuring accountability.

I tell others often how lucky I am to look forward to coming to work every day. But I think, too, that Thomas Jefferson said it well: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Fremont Area Community Foundation can do great things through philanthropy. I am filled with optimism about what comes next. Thank you for making me feel like I am home.

We are excited to debut a brand new part of our website this month: a blog! We’re planning to use this feature to bring you monthly updates on our work, the field of philanthropy, and much more. It’s an opportunity for us to give you a more in-depth look at who we are and what we do.

You can look forward to a wide variety of topics, including ways to give, our history, the grant review process, and much more. Coming up first is a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be the president and CEO of the Community Foundation from Shelly Kasprzycki.

Thank you for your interest in our work and for your continued partnership. We are grateful to be part of this community and to serve it alongside you. We hope the new blog will give you even more insight into the work we’re able to do with your help.

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently awarded $2 million in its first community grant round of 2023.

Grant support was awarded to a variety of organizations serving Newaygo County residents, including programs to provide food for local pantries, summer enrichment, library materials, general operating support, and more.

Fremont Lions Club and the City of Fremont were awarded up to $20,000 for the Students in Need of Eyecare (SINE) program. For several years, Fremont Lions Club has partnered with Ferris State University to provide eye exams and glasses to Fremont and Hesperia students whose families cannot afford or do not have access to eyecare. This year, the program is being expanded to include students in Newaygo and White Cloud public schools.

The County of Newaygo was awarded a $99,000 grant for recycling services. The grant will support recycling sites throughout Newaygo County. An individual donor also contributed $1,000 from their donor advised fund to support the program.

Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency was awarded a $255,000 grant for its Parents as Teachers (PAT) program. PAT is an early childhood parent education program based on the philosophy that parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. Parents receive information, support, and coaching to help them build skills.

Several area summer camps were also awarded grants totaling up to $10,500 to provide support and camp scholarships for Newaygo County youth.

The Community Foundation accepts community grant applications online twice each year. The next deadline is September 1. For more information, visit facommunityfoundation.org/grants.

From the smallest gifts to the largest grants, every connection we make together expands opportunity in our community. Each effort builds on the last, growing in impact as it flows outward. Hope meeting intention. Optimism becoming action. Our work together creating lasting change.

Our latest annual report explores examples of the people, programs, and connections that inspired us in 2022. Click below to read the full report.

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The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of Fremont Area Community Foundation recently awarded $61,800 in grants to programs and organizations serving Newaygo County young people.

Grants were awarded to programs supporting youth facing challenges, engaging youth in social and recreational activities, and providing educational opportunities to promote leadership skills and future success.

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes was awarded an $8,000 grant for its comprehensive career readiness program. Local students will get the opportunity to hear from volunteers in a variety of fields to learn more about different industries and career pathways.

White Cloud Community Library will use a $4,850 grant to support new youth programs, purchase books, and continue popular activities like the annual Haunted Library at Halloween.

Other YAC grants will support mentoring programs, summer enrichment classes, nature exploration, and more. In total, seven different programs received funding.

Grant applications were reviewed by YAC members who come from each Newaygo County public high school and the local homeschool community. Throughout the school year, YAC members also spend time building leadership skills and learning about philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

YAC grants are awarded each spring with applications due on March 1. For more information, visit facommunityfoundation.org/YACgrants.

The application periods for grants from the Ice Mountain Environmental Stewardship Fund and The Amazing X Charitable Trust are now open. Completed applications are due by July 17.

The Ice Mountain Environmental Stewardship Fund was established at the Community Foundation in 2002 by what is now BlueTriton Brands. In 2018, Ice Mountain renewed its support with a $2 million commitment over the next 20+ years. More than $800,00 has been awarded from the fund since its inception.

Ice Mountain Environmental Stewardship Fund grants are made to sustain the waters and water-dependent natural resources of the Muskegon River Watershed by supporting conservation, enhancement, and restoration projects. In 2022, grants from the fund supported hazardous waste collection, the creation of a buffer zone at Sandy Beach, work on the Dragon Trail at Hardy Dam, and more. For more information or to begin an online grant application, visit facommunityfoundation.org/icemountain.

The Amazing X Charitable Trust is a supporting organization of the Community Foundation and was established in 1978 by members of the Gerber family. Grant applications are accepted for projects or programs that serve people with disabilities and address general charitable needs. Past grants have supported respite programs, equine therapy, adult day groups, accessibility projects, and more. For more information or to apply, visit our supporting organization grants page.

Applications for both grant rounds are accepted once each year, typically by July 15. However, because the 15th falls on a weekend this year, applications are being accepted until 11:59 p.m. on July 17.

With the beautiful spring season in full bloom, we are so pleased to welcome two new staff members to our team, Shelly Henderson and Greg Poches.

Shelly grew up in this area and is a former county employee. Her new position with the Community Foundation includes assisting with the grant administration process and supporting our affiliate foundations and supporting organizations.

Greg is our new community investment officer, specializing in community and economic development and natural resources. He is a lifelong Newaygo County resident, loves the outdoors, and has a business and environmental background. Please join me in welcoming Greg and Shelly to the world of philanthropy!

Did you know April was National Financial Literacy Month? A 2021 survey showed that as many as 75 percent of American teens lack confidence in their knowledge of personal finance. In a world barraged with messages about purchasing, teaching children about money is essential. P.T. Barnum said, “Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience.” The Community Foundation funds an array of programs to support financial literacy. You can also find some practical tips in one of our most recent professional advisor articles.

We are grateful for people like you who make the grants, scholarships, and programs we support possible. Please stop in today or call me if you’d like to be a part of sharing philanthropy. And enjoy the blooms and all Newaygo County has to offer!

On May 11, Fremont Area Community Foundation hosted more than 70 donors for lunch and a report on the organization’s recently updated strategic framework. The luncheon was held at The Pavilion at Waters Edge in Fremont.

Shelly Kasprzycki, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO, welcomed guests and, after lunch, shared highlights from the new strategic framework. One area Kasprzycki touched on was the organization’s guiding principles of building goodwill, earning trust, and strengthening relationships.

“These guiding principles are absolutely essential to our work,” said Kasprzycki. “A community foundation is nothing unless we have the trust of donors and of the community we serve. We want to be the very best vessel for philanthropic endeavors we can be.”

Kasprzycki also talked about the idea of positive disruption. “It means taking a pro-active approach to creating positive, lasting change,” she said. As an example, Kasprzycki and Lindsay Hager, vice president and chief philanthropy officer, shared that the Community Foundation is exploring a new initiative to help address the local housing shortage.

Following the presentation, those in attendance were given the chance to share their own thoughts on the strategic framework and their ideas for enhancing the Community Foundation’s efforts.

“We are grateful for your contributions,” said Kasprzycki. “Everything we do is made possible by you.”

The Ice Mountain Environmental Stewardship Fund is celebrating 20 years of funding programs that protect and enhance the Muskegon River watershed.

The fund was established at Fremont Area Community Foundation in 2002 through the generosity of Great Spring Waters of America, Inc., now BlueTriton Brands. In 2018, Ice Mountain renewed its support with a $2 million commitment over the next 20+ years. As an endowed fund of the Community Foundation, this fund is a permanent, ever-growing resource dedicated to improving the overall health of the watershed.

“We have been proud to partner with Ice Mountain over the last 20 years to support sustaining the waters of the Muskegon River watershed,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “The Muskegon River has always been a critical resource to our communities. Thanks to Ice Mountain’s generosity and the work of partner organizations throughout the watershed, we are striving to ensure that the river and its watershed are protected and enhanced for generations to come.”

More than $800,000 has been awarded from the fund to projects focused on conservation, enhancement, and restoration of the watershed.

Since 2002, grants have supported erosion control and bank stabilization projects, environmental assessments and studies, clean up and waste collection programs, educational programs for local students and property owners, and more. Grant recipients have included multiple school systems, conservation districts, parks commissions, municipalities, and other organizations doing important work in the watershed.

“BlueTriton Brands and Ice Mountain are committed to supporting initiatives to protect and enhance the health and natural beauty of the Muskegon River Watershed, which as Michigan’s largest watershed, is important as an ecologic and economic resource,” said Arlene Anderson-Vincent of the company’s commitment to the IMESF. “We value our longstanding partnership with Fremont Area Community Foundation to fund conservation, community, and environmental group projects across the entire stretch of the watershed.”

This year, grants totaling $56,500 were awarded to five projects, including Mecosta Conservation District’s hazardous waste collection, the Dragon Trail at Hardy Dam, and Central Michigan District Health Department’s scanning of septic and well records. A full list of grants awarded can be found on the Community Foundation’s website.

Grant applications for the Ice Mountain Environmental Stewardship Fund are accepted online each year from June 1 until July 15. Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the health of the watershed are also invited to contribute to the fund at any time. More information on the fund, how to donate, and how to apply for a grant can be found at facommunityfoundation.org/icemountain.

Recently, I served as part of the Foundations on the Hill 2023 team in Washington, D.C. This annual event is an opportunity for Council of Michigan Foundations member philanthropists to visit Capitol Hill and share the power of philanthropy in their communities. Our legislators see the charitable sector as a key partner in serving community needs and initiatives. Community foundations in particular are viewed as neutral partners who have excellent data and work closely with grantees, community leaders, and citizens to solve problems.

During the event, teams were devised to meet with various regional representatives. For our area, we met with Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as Congressmen John Moolenaar and Bill Huizenga. In addition, we met with two Treasury representatives to talk about reverse scholarships and charitable tax credit issues. Reverse scholarships can be a tool for talent attraction and retention and address student loan reduction as a means to entice young people to return to their home communities to live and work.

Foundations on the Hill 2023 promoted restoration of the charitable tax credit for donations and asked that the federal government not require “spend downs” of donor advised funds. In addition, we promoted the value of the charitable sector as a key to addressing community problems and leading initiatives. Council of Michigan Foundations had the largest delegation of foundation leaders as part of the United Philanthropy Forum.

On a personal note, between briefings and meetings, we enjoyed a visit to the Capitol, but I highly recommend anyone traveling to Washington, D.C. visit the Library of Congress. It has breathtaking architecture and history!

With the scholarship application deadline rapidly approaching on March 1, Robin Cowles, our senior scholarship and technology officer, offered a few tips for students working on completing their applications. As always, feel free to contact us any time with questions about the scholarship process!

  • The application will ask for your email address—be sure to use a personal email, not your school email address. We may need to contact you after you graduate and no longer have access to the school email account.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute! Give yourself plenty of time to complete a quality application.
  • Check your essay for appropriate spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Think of it more like an essay you’re writing for English class and not a quick text message to a friend. Find more essay tips HERE.
  • Take enough time to read all questions carefully. For questions with answer options to select, be sure to read through all the options carefully as well to choose the one that best describes your situation or plans.
  • Scholarships can be used for trade schools and apprenticeship programs. In fact, we have several scholarships specifically for students pursuing careers in areas like skilled trades.

Scholarship applications for high school seniors and medical school students are completed online and due March 1. The application for adult students is open year-round; for more information on adult student scholarships, click here.

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently awarded $3.1 million in its second community grant round of 2022, bringing the total awarded in both rounds in 2022 to more than $5.6 million.

Grant support was awarded to a variety of organizations serving Newaygo County residents, including programs addressing watershed restoration, post-secondary education opportunities, summer reading, and more. Most grant awards concentrated on the Community Foundation’s focus areas of community and economic development, education, and poverty to prosperity.

More than 50 grants were awarded in total, including a $12,500 grant to Goodwill Industries of West Michigan for their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA offers free tax preparation services to low- and moderate-income families in Newaygo County. It also helps families identify tax credits they might be eligible for, like the earned income tax credit. For more information, call 2-1-1 or visit vitawestmichigan.org.

Another grant for up to $43,450 was awarded to Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency (NC RESA) for their 2023 summer internship program. Local young adults ages 16-21 can apply for paid summer internships at a variety of work sites throughout the area, gaining valuable career-related work experience.

Other grants included more than $53,000 for summer camp scholarships for Newaygo County youth and $59,000 for new materials at several local libraries.

The Community Foundation accepts community grant applications online twice each year. Applications for the first grant round of 2023 are due on March 1.

The deadline for high school seniors to apply for scholarships from Fremont Area Community Foundation is March 1.

Each year, the Community Foundation awards hundreds of scholarships to Newaygo County students seeking to continue their educations. In 2022, the Community Foundation awarded more than $644,000 in scholarships. These scholarships are all created by generous donors and are tailored to address a wide variety of experiences and circumstances, from planned fields of study to community involvement and extracurricular activities.

In addition to scholarships for students planning to attend college or university, the Community Foundation has multiple scholarships created specifically to support students interested in apprenticeships, trade school, certification programs, or other job training programs. Scholarships are available for students pursuing careers in HVAC, building trades, machining, automotive services, and much more.

To apply for scholarships, students complete just one general application online. They are then automatically matched for review for any eligible scholarships.

For more information or to apply, visit facommunityfoundation.org/scholarships. Applications must be submitted no later than March 1.

As we kick off 2023, we are delighted to approach philanthropy with a renewed mission and strategic framework. We’ll be sharing details early in the year as we finalize our work plan and partner with donors to fulfill our promise to make our community even more vibrant.

I count my blessings to work with such generous people to make our community a better place. I am so optimistic about our future! Did you know that Newaygo County recently ranked 13th among small counties for talent attraction across the nation? That we saw positive increases from 2017-2021 in educational attainment and availability of jobs? These statistics, from Lightcast’s annual talent attraction scorecard, demonstrate our steadfast commitment to make real progress. That takes all of us working together, and the Community Foundation is proud to be a strong partner in our success.

On a personal note, my heart is warmed through by the strength of services for the most vulnerable in our community. I know we can do even more, and the Community Foundation staff and trustees are more committed than ever to making that happen. Call me anytime with your thoughts. I wish you a safe and happy winter season.

Fremont Area Community Foundation recently awarded a $5 million mission-related investment to Great Lakes Energy to expand local access to broadband internet service in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola counties.

The investment will support Great Lakes Energy’s expansion of their Truestream fiber network, empowering more rural residents with access to the internet connections they need for work, school, and telehealth. The expansion is slated to impact all four counties served by the Community Foundation, including its three geographic affiliate foundations.

Approximately 53 percent of people in Newaygo County do not have broadband access, according to FCC data. While numbers are more encouraging in Mecosta County, a quarter of the population still lacks access to broadband. In Lake and Osceola counties, the number is over 70 percent. This creates significant barriers to working and studying from home, accessing telehealth services, and completing important tasks like looking for a new job or filing taxes. Affordable access to reliable internet can also create new possibilities for business expansion and increased home sales.

“Rural areas like ours are still not widely served by the reliable, high-speed internet that is now a necessity for most people and businesses,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are excited to support the local expansion of broadband service.”

Kasprzycki noted that a mission-related investment is a unique, flexible tool that philanthropic organizations can use to create positive impacts in a community beyond regular grantmaking programs.

“Unlike a typical grant, a mission-related investment is repaid, and because these investments are recovered, it allows our resources to go farther and be used again,” said Kasprzycki. “Great Lakes Energy has an over 85-year history in our state, and we’re proud to partner with them on this important project.”

Great Lakes Energy is the largest member-owned power company in Michigan, serving rural parts of 26 counties in western Michigan. They provide electric service to nearly 29,000 homes and businesses in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola counties. They launched Truestream, a fiber internet and voice service, in 2018 to provide connections to underserved and unserved rural areas. Nearly 4,000 miles of fiber line has already been installed in 10 counties and nearly 16,000 homes and businesses have been connected.

“This partnership with the Fremont Area Community Foundation furthers our goal to bring internet and voice services to our members,” said Shaun Lamp, president and CEO of Great Lakes Energy and Truestream. “We have already begun expanding the Truestream network in Newaygo County and with this investment will continue the momentum to connect more homes and businesses to life-changing fiber service.”

For more information about Great Lakes Energy’s Truestream network visit truestreamfiber.com.

As we near the holiday season, we are reminded of the oft-spoken quote, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all.” The Community Foundation is celebrating successes in partnership with our donors to improve quality of life for all people in Newaygo County and surrounding communities. We are proud of our staff and trustee team, the grants and scholarships awarded, and the relationships built. But we also know the value of combining goodwill with innovation, of reaching even farther to build and leverage partnerships and resources, and of facilitating change one step at a time.

This year, we embarked on a new strategic planning process. We will be implementing a plan that continues to address poverty, education, and community and economic development, but also prioritizes civility, placemaking, and the environment. We hope to strengthen our community investments through leveraging additional funds from federal, state, and private sources. We look forward to taking a proactive approach to one of our biggest local issues: affordable housing.

Civility and how we embody goodwill will be embraced in our work. We hope you will join us in setting aside differences to work together and lift up our communities. I’m so delighted to lead the Community Foundation, thanks to the wonderful people who make that leadership possible.

I recently read George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. He copied these rules from French Jesuits at age 16. Some seem silly—“Rule 16:  Do not puff up the cheeks, loll not out the tongue….”—but others carry just as much gravity now. My favorite is the 110th rule: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

Let us follow that 110th rule and bear goodwill to all this season. We are truly grateful for you, and we wish you and your family a blessed holiday season.

On November 30, Fremont Area Community Foundation hosted 50 representatives from nonprofit organizations across the region at a grantwriting workshop at the Center for Hope and Healing in White Cloud. The workshop was held in partnership with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Past grant recipients of the Community Foundation and its affiliate foundations in Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties were invited to participate in the free learning opportunity led by Tamela Spicer, senior program manager at the Johnson Center. The presentation covered the basics of writing a grant proposal, provided guidance on finding the right voice and writing style, and shared tips for building relationships with potential funders. Organizations were able to submit grant application examples of their own for feedback during a small group peer review exercise.

During the workshop, Community Foundation staff members also provided information for making future grant applications more successful. They shared tips specific to Community Foundation grant rounds and talked about reporting impact. Staff members also answered questions about the grant application and decision-making processes.

“This capacity building workshop was designed to help our community partners and grant recipients be better equipped to secure support not only through the Community Foundation’s grant rounds but through other funding sources as well,” said Lindsay Hager, vice president and chief philanthropy officer at the Community Foundation. “We look forward to hosting more learning opportunities in 2023.”

The Community Foundation’s next grant application deadlines are February 1 for Bridging Generations Fund grants and March 1 for Youth Advisory Committee and community grants. For more information, visit facommunityfoundation.org/grants.

Autumn is upon us! Thank you to the many people and organizations who have given us feedback as we engage in strategic planning. Trustees and staff are 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 the future we can impact.

A hallmark of the Community Foundation is being a trusted steward of community funds. We value that trust, and we are thoroughly examining what we’ve done well in grantmaking and convening and seeking to enhance our role in a more innovative way in coming years. We’ve learned that grantees appreciate when we are flexible and able to address community needs quickly. We also know that the pandemic changed our perspective on how to attain real and lasting positive change.

We plan to wrap up our strategic planning process and have new goals to share by year’s end. Please look for further information about this unfolding process coming soon.

This summer, we were pleased to welcome Todd DeKryger, Ken DeLaat, and Julie Tatko to our Board of Trustees. You can read more about them here. We are delighted to have their collective wealth of experience join our board.

On another note, we were excited to once again partner on College and Career Night Out at the end of September. Our trustees and staff are so proud of our commitment to educational success. Another example of this commitment is our scholarship program. The online application for high school seniors opened October 1. To learn more, please visit our website or call us at 231.924.5350.

My first year as president and CEO 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 of your Community Foundation.

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.”