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

Donna Trice of White Cloud was recently elected to serve on Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Trice and her family moved to the area from Detroit in the late 1980s. Her career included 29 years at Gerber Life. Trice then spent a year traveling to visit family and working on projects at home before realizing that retirement wasn’t for her. She now works for State Farm in White Cloud and is earning her license as an insurance agent. She is also very active in her community and her church, where she serves as secretary, board member, and a mentor to young women.

“I enjoy helping people,” said Trice. “Giving back is very important. It’s not just about helping yourself; it’s important to reach back and help somebody else too.”

As she begins her service with the Community Foundation board, Trice said that she looks forward to learning more about the organization’s work and how it impacts the community.

“I thought serving on the Community Foundation board would be very interesting and that I could learn from it,” said Trice. “I’m excited about learning more about what the Community Foundation does and how I can take it back to my community. I want to be a voice for my community.”

Circles USA recently released a study of the impact of the phenomenon known as the “cliff effect” on Michigan families. The study was commissioned by Fremont Area Community Foundation in conjunction with Circles Newaygo County, a program of TrueNorth Community Services.

The cliff effect occurs when even a minor increase in a family’s income causes an abrupt loss of eligibility for social safety net programs like food, housing, and child care assistance. The salary increase is often not enough to cover the resulting gap and families end up falling farther behind. To avoid the cliff effect, individuals may stay out of the workforce or turn down raises, promotions, or better-paying jobs. In addition to keeping workers from advancing, the cliff effect can be a barrier to local workforce development as employers struggle to fill positions and retain and promote talent.

The Circles report combines research on the cliff effect with data from Michigan households utilizing public support. The report summarizes the commonly used public support programs in Michigan and offers an overview of efforts undertaken in other states. For example, many states have implemented policy reforms specifically to reduce the cliff effect as it relates to child care assistance.

In addition to research, the report offers several policy recommendations. Recommendations include restructuring programs, adjusting household income limits, and adjusting child care reimbursement rates to reflect market rates for highly-rated daycare providers.

“Social safety net programs are especially important to the more than 40 percent of local workers who have jobs but still struggle to make ends meet each month,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “There is more month than paycheck and safety net programs are critical for those families. Addressing the cliff effect is also crucial to strengthening our local workforce and economy. As we understand more about how the cliff effect works in Michigan, we’re learning more about how we can work together with the community and policymakers to address these challenges.”

To read the full report, click HERE.

Circles USA is a national organization that seeks to engage communities in addressing and reducing poverty. A local chapter, Circles Newaygo County, is funded in part by grants from the Community Foundation.

Kickstart to Career Newaygo County—the local children’s savings account program now in its second year—will be the subject of a study by a University of Michigan research team led by Dr. William Elliott III.

Elliott is a professor of social work at the University of Michigan and is the nation’s leading researcher in the fields of college savings accounts, college debt, and wealth inequality. He has studied similar programs across the country and has written books about student debt and the potential of children’s savings accounts.

“Kickstart to Career is part of a growing movement not only in Michigan but across the country to help families meet education costs and build a culture of college-going within our communities,” said Elliott.

Kickstart to Career was launched in 2018 through a partnership between Fremont Area Community Foundation, ChoiceOne Bank, and local school districts. Kindergartners  receive a deposit-only savings account with $50. They have the opportunity to earn $50 more each year and family and friends can make deposits into a child’s account at any time. Upon high school graduation, the accounts can be used for continuing education and career expenses like tuition, books, supplies, and training. Classroom presentations by ChoiceOne Bank will also help students learn more about saving money, using a bank, credit, and other financial literacy topics.

Research has shown that children who have even a small savings account have higher expectations of their own futures and increased likelihood of enrollment and completion of college and career training. The idea of a child savings account program was especially compelling to the Community Foundation because research has also shown that adults who had savings accounts as children have improved financial literacy, higher levels of savings, and even healthier credit.

“The tool is a children’s savings account, but it’s much more than that,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “It prepares students to be financially healthy as adults and encourages kids to dream, plan, and save for their futures. We believe that will transform the culture of the whole community as well. We’re excited for the University of Michigan team to focus their research on our program and measure its impact. The research being done here can help other communities exploring the idea of children’s savings accounts.”

The research project is expected to include academic, social, and emotional development connected to Kickstart to Career over a four-year period. The first surveys were distributed to parents this fall .

For more information about Kickstart to Career, visit kickstarttocareer.org or call the Community Foundation at 231.924.5350.

A group of local business leaders gathered on October 22 for lunch and to discuss barriers to workforce development in Newaygo County. The luncheon was hosted by Gerber Life Insurance in partnership with Fremont Area Community Foundation.

After a welcome from Luci Moore and Bob McDonald of Gerber Life Insurance, business leaders heard from Tammy Britton, project manager with Talent 2025.

Talent 2025 is a group of West Michigan CEOs working to ensure an ongoing supply of world-class talent for the West Michigan region. Talent 2025 has done extensive research into the barriers that keep people out of the workforce. A lack of reliable transportation to and from work is one of the most common barriers.

Next, Debbi Coleman of Hope Network talked about Wheels to Work. Since it began in 2016 in Walker, the program has provided employees with reliable, efficient transportation to and from work. Using Hope Network’s buses and software, Wheels to Work maps out efficient routes and offers hub-based and curb-to-curb service. Individuals and their employers share the cost of the service, with the employee portion automatically deducted from paychecks. Some employers cover the full cost.

Currently operating in Kent and Ottawa counties, Wheels to Work hopes to expand into other counties and areas.

“We’re trying to find affordable and reliable transportation to and from work for everyone in our region,” said Coleman. “It’s about getting people to work. There are these hidden pockets of talent we’re discovering, and their only barrier was a lack of transportation.”

After the presentation, Carla Roberts, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, invited interested participants to join a working group to study how local businesses may be able to collaborate to bring this service to Newaygo County.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Community Foundation recently welcomed two new staff members.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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