The Eagle Fund grew out of an idea Cathy Obits first mentioned on an evening walk with her mother, Joan Obits. Joan moved to the area in 1954, and Cathy has lived here her whole life outside of her military service. They love the people, the open country, and the light traffic, and they both believe strongly in giving back. Creating a fund together was a way to help meet needs and care for their community.

“It’s not that we have much to give,” Joan explained. “We just give little by little, and the fund keeps growing.”

Because their fund was created near both of their birthdays, “It was like our birthday present,” said Joan. “It makes me happy. And if I can make someone else happy, or ease their life a little, I want to. I like happy, for myself and for others.”

“It’s fun to give and to know that you’re helping,” said Cathy. “You may not even know the people who benefit, but you know you’re helping. If we can give someone a leg up or help them have a life that’s a little better than they had before, we want to do that.”

Creating the fund at the Community Foundation was a way “for our gift to go on in perpetuity,” said Cathy, and a way to invest in the future of their community.

“It was a good place to start,” added Joan. “It’s investing in humanity. I’m leaving a little sunshine for someone down the road.”

Since 2016, Wellspring Adult Day Services has provided a safe place for older adults to socialize while offering respite for their regular caregivers. Housed at Reeman Christian Reformed Church, Wellspring guests enjoy conversation, lunch, and a balance of stimulating activities and rest. Programming combats social isolation and helps guests stay active and healthy.

A new program has given Wellspring an opportunity to make an even greater impact not just on their guests, but on others in the community as well. They partnered with Fremont Christian Schools and the Community Foundation’s Bridging Generations Fund to create Grandfriends.

Through Grandfriends, eighth graders from Fremont Christian School join Wellspring once a month for lunch, stories, and activities. Participants are matched based on similar interests, and the small groups play games, talk, do crafts, and teach each other. Before the monthly activities began, Wellspring staff also visited the school to teach students about the aging process, memory loss, and what to expect on their first visit.

“Our guests’ social circles continue to grow smaller as they age,” said Allie Maat, Wellspring’s program director. “This program gives them the opportunity to expand their circle and make new friends and new memories. It gives our guests something joyful to look forward to, and it is so great to see the compassion the youth have developed for our guests.”

Staff has watched friendships, empathy, and understanding grow across the generations. They write letters, share stories, and have even attended school functions together.

“We have seen the perception of each generation change, having more acceptance and empathy as well as an increase in understanding and respect,” said Allie. “The most rewarding part of the program has been to witness the building of these intergenerational relationships. As they gain a greater understanding of the different generations, we feel this builds a stronger community.”

As part of Dr. Gerald VanWieren’s commitment to the National Health Service Corps, he had to work in a high-need community after medical school. He and his wife Suzanne, a family nurse practitioner, chose Grant. Used to high doctor turnover, patients often asked how long they planned to stay.

“I was obligated to two years, but we’ve stayed 40,” said Gerald.

“We like small town life,” said Suzanne. “We like having those connections with people, and we’re rural but not very far from the city.”

The VanWierens raised their children here, love local trails and rivers, and are active volunteers. Suzanne served on Grant’s school board for 10 years and Gerald is a trustee of the Bridging Generations Fund at the Community Foundation.

As members of Our Next 75, the VanWierens have also given to the Maynard and Lavina DeKryger Scholarship. Their support honors the DeKrygers, who were mentors to them, and helps local graduates attending medical school.

“We’re not just here to amass material goods,” said Gerald. “We would like to leave the world a better place. We’re grateful for what we’ve received and want to return it.”

As a member of the Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), Emma Kartes spent her first year quietly observing. “Then I started getting more comfortable speaking up,” she said. “I learned about communication. I learned that when you take on a leadership role, it’s not just being in charge. It’s making sure everyone is supported and knows that I feel confident in them. I use that all the time now.”

Today, as a college student, Emma is using her skills as she majors in public and nonprofit administration. She is also involved with the Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance on campus and has an internship with the Council of Michigan Foundations. She has consulted with organizations, written grants, and helped guide giving campaigns. In her internship, Emma provides leadership for statewide youth philanthropy programming.

“I always knew I wanted to do good work for a good reason,” she said. “Being in YAC helped me begin to professionalize my interest in the nonprofit sector.”

Growing up in Newaygo County also served as early inspiration. “Seeing how involved people were in supporting each other, especially youth, made me want to get involved too,” said Emma. “I feel very lucky. All the support I got from the community made me want to give back.”

Where some saw an eyesore, Newaygo County Compassion Home saw potential. While the hospice home began serving guests in 2018 at a donated house in White Cloud, they also began renovating a larger building in Fremont that had been empty for years. Today, it is a spacious, comfortable home where guests can complete their lives with dignity, surrounded by care.

“The end of life is part of living,” said Diane Rudholm, executive director. “We want to help people transition peacefully and gracefully. We want it to feel like home.”

Thanks to a devoted board and staff—including support dog Darla—the Compassion Home has served over 245 people, including more than 155 since moving to their new location in 2021. All services are free to guests and families, so the organization relies on donations and local support. “It’s a gift from the community to the community,” said Dr. Douglas Johnson, board president.

To provide additional long-term support, the Compassion Home created an endowment fund at the Community Foundation last year. “It will provide sustainability in the future,” said Diane. “It also provides another way for people to give. We are so grateful for the support of the community.”

Four of six Gorsky siblings moved to Newaygo County in the early 1970s with their parents, Al and Loretta. They graduated from high school, then spread out across the country for college, military service, and careers. Yet this area kept drawing them back.

“We have kept these connections for the 50 years since,” said Therese Gorsky Cosan.

“We could go anywhere in the world, but we choose to be here because it’s special,” said Alex Gorsky.

Older brother Jim Gorsky used to visit but never lived here until several years ago. “I realized I had only scratched the surface before,” he said. “There are so many people to meet here, really goodhearted people.”

Several family members live here full-time now, and the others love to visit regularly. They all follow Al and Loretta’s example of seeking out ways to give back and get involved.

The Gorskys have been instrumental in the resurrection of Waters Edge Golf Course, inspired by their father’s vision and the prospect of creating jobs and recreational opportunities. They also created an endowment fund together at the Community Foundation as part of the family’s ongoing commitment to the area.

“We are so fortunate in this community,” said Alex. “But it’s because people have made the effort to get involved. Giving back is our responsibility.”

Family and community are deeply important to Christie Pollock. She is a hands-on grandma, a book club member, one of the founders of the local pickleball movement, a beloved former teacher, and even a member of our Bridging Generations Fund board. “It’s a very full life,” she said.

Christie has always been actively involved in community work. “There are a lot of opportunities in this community to give in different ways,” she said. “I’ve been lucky, and I feel a lot of gratitude. That’s why you give back, to pass it on. It’s brought me a lot of joy.”

Christie has also created a fund at the Community Foundation that combines her love of family and community with a lifelong desire to give back. The fund will help local people who want to adopt children. Christie was adopted at birth and always knew she wanted to adopt. “It was always on my roadmap,” she said. “I adopted my two children, and they’re everything to me. They’re my whole life.”

While there are many children who need loving homes, adoption can also be an expensive process. “With this fund, I want to help people who are adopting in any way I can,” said Christie.

The Community Foundation felt like a good fit with Christie’s goals. She was also familiar with the organization because her mother, Vyvyan Pollock, created a fund here years ago and her children received scholarships.

“I’m very proud that we have the Community Foundation here,” said Christie. “It says a lot that so many people have wanted to support it, and I wanted to be one of them.”

Over 55 years ago, Gladys Hindes heard a simple message from her pastor about a family in Hesperia who could use a friend. Her immediate, whole-hearted response created an enduring bond between two families.

Rhonda Davenport Johnson is one of eight children in the family that Gladys befriended. “We became a part of her family,” said Rhonda. “When she said, ‘Call me Aunt Glad,’ she meant it and it was for a lifetime.”

Gladys knitted mittens for everyone at Christmas, attended high school and college graduations and weddings, and became one of Rhonda’s mother’s best friends. “She was always a part of our big moments, but she also just did life with us,” said Rhonda.

Gladys also embodied a welcoming spirit of inclusion that provided an indelible example for those around her. “For my brother and I, her legacy was inclusiveness,” said Laska Creagh, Gladys’ daughter. “She believed everyone deserves love.”

“Growing up as one of very few African American families in the area, we were made to feel different by some, but that was never part of Aunt Glad,” said Rhonda. “She wanted the best for everyone.”

At Gladys’ 100th birthday party in 2019, not only were many Davenports in attendance, but they also donated in her honor to the Community Foundation. “We wanted to help families who needed encouragement and support,” said Rhonda, who is now an executive vice president with Comerica Bank. “We wanted to acknowledge how significant such support had been in our lives and to bless someone else.”

When Gladys passed away in 2021, the Davenports gave again in honor of Aunt Glad’s legacy of love, joy, and generosity. Rhonda and her family continue to look for ways to carry on that example.

“I hope someday people will say that we did some of those things for others,” said Rhonda. “That we were kind, that we were loving, that we were accepting, the way Aunt Glad was with us. I, like the rest of my family, adored her!”


Pictured above (l-r) are Laska Creagh, Morris Davenport, Annie Davenport, and Rhonda Davenport Johnson. Photo by Rich Wheater.

Throughout 2022, the Community Foundation developed an updated strategic plan to guide our work. The process included analyzing extensive research and community feedback.

“The best part of our process was seeking out the opinions of community members, leaders, former trustees, grantees, staff, donors, and affiliates and supporting organizations,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, president and CEO. “Their input and inspiring work in the community are what propelled our planning.”

These diverse perspectives helped us identify what worked well and where we could improve. For example, we will continue our grantmaking focus on poverty, community and economic development, and education. However, we are also adding a stronger emphasis on natural resources and placemaking.

“We want to build a community that is comfortable and accessible, that has economic prosperity, and offers healthy social and cultural opportunities,” said Shelly. “All of these things make a community a great place to be.”

Other goal areas include streamlining grantmaking processes and finding innovative solutions to local challenges. Woven throughout is a focus on continuing to build trust and collaborations.

“Our framework centers on partnership, whether it be donor relationships, leveraging resources, or solving problems together,” said Shelly. “The Community Foundation belongs to the community, and that’s why we see our role as one of an essential partner. We are listening to our grantees and strengthening relationships with our community partners and donors so that we can better collaborate and serve the needs of our neighbors.”

As we put our new strategic plan into practice, you can expect to hear about new initiatives, opportunities to get involved, and more.

“I’m excited about being proactive in some of our initiatives, such as addressing affordable housing, as well as the critical role civility will play in our future direction,” said Shelly. “We must work together to move forward for the common good.”

For a look at our full strategic plan, visit

Jack and Mary Butterick were high school sweethearts in the Grand Ledge area. “Well, it actually started around age 10,” Jack clarified with a laugh. “But we took a few years off in there.” They have been married for 56 years and, as part of Jack’s job with Gerber, spent some of those years traveling and living in Indianapolis and even Puerto Rico. But it was always West Michigan that captured their hearts.

“I traveled the world and have been to 65 countries, but this is where our hearts are,” said Jack. “This is where we always came back to.”

For part of the year, Jack and Mary divide their time between their home in Fremont and a cottage on White Lake that Jack’s parents bought years ago. They stay there until the cold drives them out, but even at the height of summer, the Buttericks still make regular trips back to Fremont for laundry, church, and volunteer commitments. Service has been a hallmark of their life together.

“I was in the Jaycees and their slogan was, ‘service to humanity is the best work of life,’” said Jack. “We’ve believed that and practiced it.”

From volunteering at local food pantries to shifts in the Friends of the Library room at Fremont Area District Library, Jack and Mary take their commitment to being good neighbors seriously. “We’ve been blessed in so many ways so we can share,” said Mary.

Another avenue for getting involved has been their partnership with the Community Foundation. The Buttericks created a scholarship nearly 30 years ago and will create an unrestricted fund through their estate plan.

“The Community Foundation was the obvious place,” said Jack. “Newaygo County has been a wonderful place for us to live, work, socialize, and worship. We want to leave a legacy and share in the Community Foundation’s ongoing role in our community.”

On a bright morning at the end of July, a line of cars looped around the parking lot at Grant Middle School. One by one they drove past a stretch of colorful tents and tables, greeted by smiles and a mix of Spanish and English. Families in each car received groceries, back-to-school supplies, information on local services, and more as part of Farmworker Appreciation Day.

Organized by the Sparta Area Migrant Resource Council, the day is an annual opportunity to recognize those who play a critical role in our local economy and community. Each year in Michigan, the food and agriculture industry brings in more than $100 billion and includes 94,000 migrant farmworkers and family members.

“I wish more people realized how important these workers are to farmers and to you and I,” said event organizer Mary Rangel, who also serves on the Community Foundation board. “We need them, and it’s important they know how much we appreciate them.”

This year, more than 150 families participated in the event, which is funded in part by a grant from the Community Foundation. It also brings together a network of partner agencies and enthusiastic volunteers. “Everybody is pitching in and helping,” said Mary. “The community is coming together, whether they’re on the receiving end or the giving end.”

Mary has led Farmworker Appreciation Day for 18 years and is still excited about the opportunity to share resources, help kids feel more ready for school, and show support for these local families.

“I’ve always wanted to leave a person, a community better than when I found it,” said Mary. “This is the best thing I can do for my community. We are taking care of each other.”

Greg and Christy Zerlaut are Holton graduates and high school sweethearts who returned to the area after college. Christy had trained as a teacher and was quickly hired as a long-term substitute. “We got to town on Saturday and I got the call on Monday,” she said. “I was eventually hired in and never left.”

Greg, an accountant, worked first in banking and then in the community foundation field. After several years in Muskegon, he was hired as the first vice president of finance at our Community Foundation. “In the corporate world, it can be cutthroat,” he said. “But in community foundations, people helped each other.”

The Zerlauts’ up-close experience with the Community Foundation made it a natural fit as a place to give. With their donor advised fund, the couple supports the causes most important to them, from education to food pantries and more. They’ve also included the Community Foundation in their estate plan, making them the latest members of Our Next 75.

“We wanted to compliment the work of the Community Foundation,” said Greg. “From working there, I know personally the process they go through to make decisions. We feel comfortable following their direction. Their focus areas follow what we want to do.”

The Crandell family has been a fixture in Newaygo County for 120 years. As owners of Crandell Funeral Homes in Fremont and White Cloud, they have helped friends and neighbors through some of the most trying moments of their lives.

“We’ve been caring for families in this community for four generations,” said Curt Crandell who, along with his brother Scott, owns and operates the business.

The Crandells have always made community a priority, through their work, volunteerism and with a scholarship they created for Fremont and White Cloud graduates. The whole family—including Curt, Scott, sister Julie, their spouses, and their children—contributed to the fund honoring their father Richard who passed away in 2018.

“It was a family decision to start the fund when Richard died,” said Phyllis, Richard’s wife. “We believe every bit of education you can get is important.”

Creating the scholarship through the Community Foundation helped the family continue a tradition of giving that is deeply local and long-lasting.

“It was important for it to be local and we like the sustainability of giving through the Community Foundation,” said Scott. “In the future, we hope recipients look back and realize that people cared about them and were interested in them being successful.”

While the class of 2030’s graduation may seem far off, Kickstart to Career Newaygo County has been planning for it since before those students started kindergarten in 2018. The kids in this inaugural Kickstart class were the first to receive savings accounts at ChoiceOne Bank, seeded with $50 from the Community Foundation.

After graduation, students can use the money they’ve saved and earned for college, career training, and other related expenses. But the impact reaches far beyond just dollars.

“It’s about so much more than the amount in the savings account,” said Jackie Hite, Kickstart to Career assistant at the Community Foundation. “Our main goal is changing mindsets. Students start thinking, ‘I am going to college. I am going to trade school,’ instead of thinking they can’t afford it or it’s not for them. It makes it tangible.”

Along with savings accounts, the Kickstart program provides interactive classroom lessons on financial literacy and how saving today can help students prepare for the future. The Community Foundation also created an endowed fund to support Kickstart’s long-term sustainability.

“These kids are dreaming of a brighter future,” said Jackie. “We want to say to them, ‘Yes, you can and here’s how.’”

Lindsay and Vonda Hager moved to Newaygo County in the late 90s for work, “but we stayed because we loved the community,” said Vonda. Little moments like taking their daughters to the local hardware store on Saturdays for popcorn and stickers made the area feel like home.

Through Lindsay’s work in the nonprofit sector—he is now the Community Foundation’s vice president and chief philanthropy officer—the Hagers saw first-hand all the ways community members give back, from volunteerism to donating funds. They passed along that example to their daughters and live it out themselves.

“I used to think philanthropy was just for the wealthiest, but it’s for all of us,” said Lindsay. “It’s something everyone can do.”

The Hagers recently became two of the newest members of Our Next 75. Giving through the Community Foundation appealed to them, in part, because it is deeply local.

“The Community Foundation originated in Newaygo County by residents of Newaygo County giving back to Newaygo County—you can’t make a bigger impact than that in the community you love,” said Vonda. “So many things in the community are made possible because of the Community Foundation. It sets such a powerful example that these things can’t continue unless those who come after keep building it.”

“We want to see the good work of the Community Foundation continue,” said Lindsay. “We want to make sure it continues to benefit the community for another 75 years and beyond.”

Fresh paint and 3,500 square feet of new drywall are the obvious signs that something big is happening at the former Leighton Hall in White Cloud. But there’s also a sense of excitement and possibility growing in the refurbished space.

The new Center for Hope and Healing is the joint vision of Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (PCA) and Open Arms Child Advocacy Center. It allows PCA to relocate from its pole barn-turned-office and Open Arms from its space in an apartment complex in Big Rapids. Both organizations needed more room for their work with children and families.

“We knew collaboration would be the future of both organizations,” said Tara Nelson, PCA’s executive director and an Open Arms board member. “We have the same goals and want the same outcome.”

Together, the organizations provide an array of services to build stronger families and prevent abuse while also supporting children who have experienced abuse. PCA offers services like infant safe sleep education, teaching children about body safety, and the popular Summer Magic program. Through Open Arms, children who have experienced abuse meet with a specially-trained forensic interviewer to tell their story just once while law enforcement, investigators, and others observe from another room. Follow-up services are offered to help begin the healing process.

“It was difficult for families to know what to do and where to go for help before,” said Tara. “Here we can say, ‘We know exactly what to do and we’ll walk you through the next steps.’ We can see them through the whole process.”

In addition to private, child-friendly spaces for forensic interviews, the center will include areas for art therapy, supervised visitation, events, and more when it opens this spring. It’s a big project that came together rapidly thanks to significant community support, including a matching grant from the Community Foundation. PCA was able to purchase and renovate the building debt-free, giving two organizations a new home and new opportunities.

“We’re looking forward to the growth both organizations can have here,” said Tara. “The new center opens the doors for greater impact.”

The Pere Marquette and Muskegon rivers may get all the glory, but, according to Jake Lemon, eastern angler science coordinator with Trout Unlimited, the White River has plenty to offer too.

The White River is a popular place for fly fishing, camping, and beloved family cottages. Smaller and shallower, the river is home to brown and brook trout, steelhead, and salmon as it runs through Newaygo, Oceana, and Muskegon counties.

“It supports high-quality and varied fisheries,” said Jake. “The watershed is sandwiched between the Pere Marquette and Muskegon rivers and it doesn’t get as much attention, but we can improve water quality, the fishery, and recreational opportunities for these communities along the river.”

Recently, Trout Unlimited began leading efforts focused on restoring and protecting the White River watershed. A gathering hosted by the Community Foundation earlier this year brought together community representatives to share perspectives and develop priorities. Trout Unlimited stepped up to provide leadership moving forward and this spring received a $38,022 grant from the Community Foundation to continue the work.

“We want to build a groundswell of good partners using good science,” said Jake. “None of this would be possible without the Community Foundation. It’s been the catalyst for something that can grow.”

By working with partners from local landowners all the way up to federal agencies, Trout Unlimited is focused on improving watershed health and building stronger connections between communities and the river that runs through them. Culvert remediation, bank stabilization, and exploring economic impact are just a few projects planned or already underway.

“There are great opportunities to significantly improve the watershed,” said Jake. “I would like to have a well-connected community of caretakers working together to find opportunities to restore and protect the watershed. That’s the big picture.”

Lou Deleguardia served in the Navy, studied culinary arts, and even owned a motorcycle shop. But an interest in financial management kept resurfacing and led Lou to a career as a financial advisor.

His interest in the field was inspired in part by the difficult experience of settling his father’s estate. He and his siblings were all young adults when their father passed away without a will or estate plan. “I thought, ‘There has to be a better way,’” said Lou.

Several years later, a job opening in investment and financial management piqued his interest and he took advantage of the opportunity.

“Sometimes there are roadblocks—you don’t see the path, then all of a sudden a door opens up,” Lou remarked. Of his now-career, he said, “I get to help people. It’s been pretty rewarding.”

Through his work, Lou was aware of the Community Foundation as a resource for local giving. He decided to get involved, first by naming the Community Foundation in his own estate plan and then by creating a fund through the Build-A-Fund program. With those two steps, Lou also became one of the newest members of Our Next 75.

Lou’s field of interest fund will support recreation programs in Newaygo County, especially those for youth. His own hometown in New York state had a robust recreation program and a large park that housed sports fields, a teen center, community gardens, and more. Knowing how important those programs were to him and others, Lou wants to help provide similar opportunities for his neighbors here.

“These programs are training for life,” he said, noting that sports and other activities help kids learn about teamwork, find mentors, and cultivate positive habits.

In addition to supporting valuable opportunities for others, Lou sees his fund as a way to thank the community that welcomed him.

“With a fund at the Community Foundation, I can touch a lot more people than I could on my own,” he said. “I’ve been blessed here, and I want to give back.”

Roger and Becky Tuuk have grown to love many things about Newaygo County in their 40 years here—particularly the small town feel and easy access to nature.

“We like the outdoors, hiking, kayaking, and being on the trails,” said Roger, who serves on the West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition board. Supporting environmental causes through volunteer service is just one of the ways the Tuuks give back. They also utilize their donor advised fund at the Community Foundation to give to various causes close to their hearts.

Partnering with the Community Foundation is a natural fit for Roger and Becky, in part because of the unique perspective Roger has as a past employee of the organization. In the late 1980s, Roger was hired as the Community Foundation’s first full-time accountant and was one of just four staff members.

“Going from the corporate world to the foundation world, I saw what the Community Foundation can do,” he said. “It’s a great asset to this community and we feel fortunate to be a part of it.”

When COVID-19 hit, the Tuuks partnered again with the Community Foundation to support the Community Response Fund and help those most impacted by the pandemic.

“There can be such a disparity in our county and if there’s any way we can help, that’s what we want to do,” said Becky. “Things are not that important to us. Giving is important because we don’t need it all and other people may need it a lot.”

As the pandemic started to take hold in March 2020, the staff at TrueNorth Community Services was sure of at least one thing: “As soon as schools closed, we knew it would have serious repercussions,” said Mike Voyt, director of hunger prevention programs. “We pride ourselves on being able to respond quickly to emergencies, but even we were surprised by the speed of the increased need.”

Knowing that school closures and layoffs would mean greater food insecurity, TrueNorth quickly tripled weekend food packs for students, reduced the waiting period for food services, and increased mobile pantry distributions. “We turned our multipurpose room into a food warehouse,” said Mike. “We filled the whole agency up with food.”

Just a week after closures began, double the usual number of families were being served at mobile pantries. Numbers increased again in September. By then, TrueNorth had already distributed 120,000 pounds of food—thousands more than in all of 2019.

While TrueNorth adapted to the increased need, they were quickly met with local support, including two grants from the Community Foundation’s Community Response Fund.

“It has been a stressful time, but this is what we do—we come together,” said Mike. “As soon as we got the word out, we started getting calls. I felt extremely proud to live and work here.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he added, noting he expects increased demand into 2022. “But we can create a local food system where everyone has access to affordable, quality nutrition. We can recover and come out stronger.”