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

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

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.

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.

In 2026, Fremont Area Community Foundation will celebrate 75 years of generosity and impact in Newaygo County. As part of this milestone anniversary, we are looking for 75 new people who want to support the community they love both today and into the future.

These people are emerging philanthropists–passionate, driven, and committed to making lasting change in our community. As we draw closer to our 75th anniversary, this group will play a vital role in building the future of Newaygo County.

To join Our Next 75, we only ask three simple things:

1. Give today

Establish a named fund or make an annual gift of $250 or more to an endowed fund at the Community Foundation.

2. Give tomorrow

Include the Community Foundation in your estate plan.

3. Share your story

Share with us why you chose to give back to the community.

 

Dawn Williams: First Member of Our Next 75

At age 15, Dawn Williams was the Hair Station’s first receptionist. Today she’s the Fremont salon’s owner. Along with her daughter Morgan, Dawn had an idea to create a fund that would help cosmetology students at the Newaygo County Career-Tech Center pay for tests and equipment they need to get started in their careers. Using the Build-a-Fund program, the Hair Station Fund is steadily growing with help from staff and clients.

Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) member Emma Kartes was recently selected to be the first youth member of Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Distribution Committee.

Kartes was chosen by YAC leadership and will join a group of Community Foundation trustees who review staff grant research and make grant decisions and recommendations to the full Board of Trustees. Last year, the Community Foundation awarded $5.7 million through its two community grant rounds to support more than 100 local programs.

YAC leaders and advisors developed the idea to include a YAC member on the Distribution Committee as a way to provide a greater youth perspective on the Community Foundation’s grantmaking and to increase YAC’s understanding of the Community Foundation’s work.

Currently finishing her sophomore year at Fremont High School, Kartes has been a YAC member for two years. In addition to her experience in reviewing YAC grants and conducting site visits, Kartes has impressed YAC leaders with her responsibility, professionalism, and thoughtful leadership.

“I’m interested in and willing to give back to the community that continues to provide so much for me,” said Kartes, who added that she is honored to be the first YAC member to serve on the Distribution Committee. “I’m excited to be able to start off and set a good example for the YAC members who will serve in the future.”

Kickstart to Career Newaygo County—a joint program of Fremont Area Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank—launched on March 22 at the Neway Center in Newaygo. The program is designed to build aspirations, encourage savings, increase financial education, and assist with college or career expenses after high school.

Starting in the fall of 2018, every kindergarten student in Newaygo County will have the opportunity to be the beneficiary of an account at ChoiceOne, opened with a $50 deposit from the Community Foundation.

Students will be able to earn additional contributions and families can make deposits at any time. Upon graduating from high school, students can use their accounts to help pay for post-secondary education and career-related expenses such as tuition, books, tools, or training.

At the launch event, staff and board representatives from the Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank were joined by local school superintendents, administrators, and school board members. The audience was greeted by Carla Roberts, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, and Kelly Potes, president and CEO of ChoiceOne Bank.

“This is a special day,” said Roberts. “The tool is a children’s savings account program, but it’s much more than that. Research shows that having even a relatively small amount of savings has a significant impact on the way a child thinks about and prepares for their future. Children with savings accounts have better math and reading scores, develop greater expectations for themselves, and are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college.”

Potes explained that in addition to opening savings accounts, ChoiceOne will provide the technology for families to monitor accounts online and partner with local school districts to provide financial literacy education in classrooms.

“We’re really excited,” said Potes. “As a father of five kids who are now grown up and out of school, I can attest to the fact that saving for college and career is really important. It’s a great honor for us to help Fremont Area Community Foundation and families in the community.”

Preschool students from the Neway Center—who will be among the first group to receive savings accounts—and their teachers also participated. Students wrote and illustrated a book about saving money that was presented to the group. They also each received a piggy bank to begin saving for their own accounts. After the presentation, school officials signed a memorandum of understanding to certify their district’s participation in Kickstart to Career. Participating districts are Big Jackson Public Schools, Fremont Christian School, Fremont Public Schools, Grant Christian School, Grant Public Schools, Hesperia Community Schools, Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, Newaygo Public Schools, and White Cloud Public Schools.

Lynne Robinson, a retired educator and former Community Foundation trustee, remarked on the impact of the event on the students who participated.

“There was a room full of people these kids don’t know and might not ever see again, but these kids understand now that somebody cared enough about them that they gave money to start them on a path to success,” said Robinson. “That has an impact. This is the beginning of that tie to the community as they grow up.”

In December, Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees approved Kickstart to Career as a 10-cohort pilot program, including students entering kindergarten from 2018 through 2027. The program will serve approximately 550 children in the first year and more than 7,000 students total. Fremont Area Community Foundation expects to make more than $3.4 million in deposits during this time.

There are currently 54 child savings account programs nationwide with more than 380,000 children participating. In Michigan, Barry County and Lansing have children’s savings account programs. Muskegon County is slated to launch theirs in 2018.

For more information about Kickstart to Career Newaygo County, visit kickstarttocareer.org.

More than 125 representatives from local nonprofit organizations attended a January 17 Grantee Workshop hosted by Fremont Area Community Foundation. Presenters included staff and trustees from the Community Foundation as well as representatives from The Right Place and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Attendees were introduced to the Newaygo County Area Dashboard, a new measurement tool that will track the area’s growth and development in several key areas. The Community Foundation worked with The Right Place to develop the tool that will track indicators such as labor force participation rate, third grade reading level, and high school graduation rate.

Other workshop sessions gave an overview of the grantmaking process, online system, new policies, and grant guidelines for each focus area. A new core capacity and financial health assessment tool, developed in partnership with the Johnson Center, was also shared.

With such a great turnout, the workshop was a valuable opportunity for staff and trustees to interact with grantees from around the county.

“We’re so grateful to all of our community partners who attended the workshop,” said Carla Roberts, Community Foundation president and CEO. “This was a great opportunity to gather together and talk about the ways we can collaborate for the greatest possible impact.”

Lisa Daniell, director of the Volunteer Resource Center at TrueNorth Community Services, attended the workshop and said attendees came away with a better understanding of the Community Foundation’s goals.

“This transparency is beneficial for local programs to plan and strategize within their own programs to determine how they best align for potential future funding,” said Daniell. “I appreciated all the work that went into making the day a great success.”

More than 50 Community Foundation donors gathered for the annual Fall Donors Luncheon at the Stone Lodge on October 30. Along with time for catching up and conversation, the luncheon program focused on recent activities in the area of community and economic development.

Carla Roberts, FACF president and CEO, shared that when the organization conducted a community needs assessment in 2016 in Newaygo County and affiliate counties of Mecosta, Lake, and Osceola, a common theme rose to the top.

“Across all four counties, the key concerns identified by respondents focused on jobs and the economy,” said Roberts. “We considered these results as an affirmation of the direction we had been heading in since 2011 when we began to focus on education, prosperity, and a vibrant economy. All of these efforts are focused on talent development and making sure that we have the workforce we will need for the future.”

Roberts summarized some of the Community Foundation’s recent work to support entrepreneurship and small business development as well as efforts to create a Newaygo County Employer Resource Network (ERN). She then introduced James Vander Hulst, president and CEO of Michigan ERN.

ERNs, explained Vander Hulst, are networks of employers who come together to grapple with issues like turnover and employee retention. Employers identify common issues and share best practices. A key component of ERNs is hiring a success coach who spends time at each company and acts as an advocate for employees. Coaches help identify and find solutions to issues that may prevent an employee from making it to work and being successful.

“If you believe your employees are your greatest asset, how are you creating a culture that keeps them coming back?” asked Vander Hulst.

Guests then heard from Scott Faulkner, a longtime advocate of tourism in Newaygo County who has served as a leader in organizations like River Country Chamber of Commerce, Newaygo Nationals Association, and the Newaygo County Tourism Council.

Faulkner shared updates on the development of The Dragon, a 48-mile trail around Hardy Pond. When completed, the trail will span four townships and two counties and will feature 39 water crossings.

“It should be an incredible draw for mountain bikers and pedestrians,” said Faulkner, who estimates that the trail will bring in at least $4 million in revenue. “It will be the only one like it in North America.”

Local residents looking to become more involved in their community are invited to Nonprofit Speed Dating on May 16 at the Stone Lodge in Fremont.

Through a series of informal chats with nonprofit organizations in a fun atmosphere, individuals will get a better picture of what each nonprofit does and where their personal skills and talents might be needed most.

Refreshments will be provided and attendees will rotate among tables staffed by representatives from a variety of local nonprofits. They will learn more about the organizations’ goals and needs and how their missions and priorities may match up.

The free event is hosted by Fremont Area Community Foundation in partnership with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. It will be a great opportunity for anyone who is curious about local nonprofits and what they do, as well as for anyone thinking about serving on a nonprofit board or committee, now or in the future.

Nonprofit Speed Dating will be held Tuesday, May 16 from 5-7 p.m. at the Stone Lodge in Fremont. For more information and to RSVP, visit facommunityfoundation.org/events or call 231.924.5350.

Working with multiple regional partners, the Community Foundation recently commissioned a study of veteran services in our area, specifically Michigan Prosperity Region 4A.

The study was conducted by the Altarum Institute—a nonprofit health systems research and consulting organization—and involved interviews with veterans and service providers to get a true picture of what services are available for local veterans, how veterans access those services, and what gaps exist.

The study was funded by the Community Foundation and local partners in Osceola, Mecosta, Lake, Oceana, and Mason counties.

Results showed that while there are many resources available for veterans in our community, individuals and organizations are not always aware of them. In order to connect veterans to services, work has begun to form a Veterans Community Action Team for our region. A major responsibility of the team will be to create an online platform to allow service providers to quickly connect veterans and their families to a wide array of services and resources.

You can read the full survey report here.

For more information, contact Maria Gonzalez at 231.924.5350.

Serving on a nonprofit organization’s board or one of its committees is a meaningful way to make a difference in your community. Newaygo County nonprofits are waiting for your talents, your leadership, and your passion!

Join us to learn what serving on a nonprofit board is all about at a free Introduction to Nonprofit Board Service seminar. You’ll learn more about:

  • Roles and responsibilities of board members
  • Nonprofit fundraising, financial management, and board structures
  • How your skills and talents can help strengthen local nonprofits

Choose from one of four dates and locations:

You don’t have to be ready to make a commitment; just come and learn! Then, in May, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a “nonprofit speed dating” event where you can connect with local organizations who could use your skills and talents.

For more details and to register, visit facommunityfoundation.org/events.

These seminars are part of the 2017 Leadership Series. Working with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, our goal in 2017 is to identify and train a new wave of people willing to serve on our local nonprofit, church, township, service club, and other community boards. The tradition of strong volunteer boards and committees is uniquely American and is key to making Newaygo County one of the most vibrant rural counties in Michigan.

Recently the Newaygo County Workforce Development Task Force commissioned a report from Talent 2025 to shine a light on the current state of our local workforce.

The task force was formed to address our county’s declining participation in the workforce as well as employee development and retention. Task force members include Fremont Area Community Foundation, Michigan Works! West Central, Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, Newaygo County Economic Development Office in association with The Right Place, TrueNorth, and United Way of the Lakeshore-Newaygo County.

The Talent 2025 report was an important step in the task force’s early work to examine data on local employment and the workforce. The report revealed key findings about our economy, the local labor force, and community assets.

Based on this research, the task force is now developing an approach to engage the business community as a partner in implementing solutions to help people become successful in the workforce and to fulfill the talent needs of local employers.

“Our first role was the identification of our current status,” said Mark Guzniczak, business development coordinator with NCEDO and The Right Place. “And our second is to develop programming, connections, and relationships to work together to fill the gaps.”

Read the full Talent 2025 report here.

The tradition of strong volunteer boards and committees is uniquely American and is key to making Newaygo County one of the most vibrant rural counties in Michigan.

This coming year, the Community Foundation, in partnership with the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, will identify and train a new wave of people willing to serve on our local nonprofit, church, township, service club, and other community boards.

In February and April of 2017, the Johnson Center will provide specialized board training for those inspired to serve and who possess a passion for improving our community. The program will culminate with an event aimed at pairing newly trained community volunteers with the nonprofits and organizations in need of their leadership.

In addition, the Johnson Center will lead a coaching series for current leaders of nonprofit boards. Through three sessions, local board chairpersons will gain insights into addressing their organizations’ toughest challenges and enhance their roles to lead effectively. The first coaching session is planned for January.

To learn more, or to express your interest in participating, call Mark Petz, special projects coordinator, at 231.924.5350 or email info@facommunityfoundation.org.