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.

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The search committee includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: