Hope College has always been an important part of David and Rhonda Byrne’s story. They met there and both of their sons chose to attend there. David and Rhonda were even married by the school’s chaplain, who offered advice the Byrnes have followed ever since.

“He told us as soon as we got married to start giving and to make it a habit,” said David. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”

The couple has found plenty of ways to give. Even their careers—David is a lawyer and Rhonda is a social worker—are a way for them to help others.

They have also partnered with the Community Foundation in their giving. They like that it is an easy, locally-focused way to make an impact. “Every day we can see people who have benefitted from others giving and from the Community Foundation,” said Rhonda. “We know it’s well-managed and the Community Foundation makes it easy for us.”

In addition to joining Our Next 75, the Byrnes created a scholarship to help local graduates who want to attend their alma mater.

“I went to a scholarship luncheon while I was a student,” said David. “I remember meeting the people helping me go to college and I thought, ‘Someday I want to help someone else.’ We hope this scholarship encourages somebody to dream.”

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.”

Every summer since 1949, Bill Alsover’s family relocated from their East Grand Rapids home to a cottage on Pickerel Lake. The old cottage was beautiful “only in our hearts,” said Bill, but all the neighbors had children of similar ages who swam, fished, and explored together.

“It was idyllic,” he said. “It was a humble dwelling, but we loved it here.”

The house is different today but the pull of the lake remains strong. Bill—now a Community Foundation trustee—moved to the area full-time over a decade ago and his children and grandchildren are frequent visitors. However, as Bill spent even more time on the lake, he began to notice changes in it and in neighboring Kimball Lake. There were more weeds and the water seemed less clear. One of the problems, a neighbor told him, was that “people use the lake now, they don’t really love it.”

“I have learned a lot about lakes and how sensitive and fragile they are,” said Bill. “They’re not going to fix themselves.”

In addition to encouraging lake health studies and working with the Pickerel Kimball Lake Improvement Board, Bill decided to create a fund at the Community Foundation to support projects that can improve the lakes and watershed.

“It’s been ideal to work with the Community Foundation. It gave the fund credibility,” he said. “We want people to know the fund is here and it’s another way to contribute to the health of the lakes.”

Jeanne Leaver and her husband Bill created a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation because they wanted a sustainable way to support the area they were born in and returned to as adults. It was here they learned the importance of giving back through the example of their families and neighbors.

“Bill and I both had times when we needed help and people were there for us,” said Jeanne. “Others in the community set the example and you don’t forget that.”

The Leavers worked to become informed about local needs and thought hard about the kind of impact they wanted to have. After Bill passed away in 2020, their practice of carefully researching opportunities fell to Jeanne. “I’ve had to take the reins on our fund,” she said.

One thing enhancing Jeanne’s new process is the Community Foundation’s catalog of funding opportunities, which gives donors a chance to get involved in grantmaking. During each community grant round, request summaries from the grant applications are shared with donor advised fundholders. Donors like Jeanne can then recommend grants from their funds to help fill the needs of local nonprofit organizations.

“Looking through the funding opportunities is a really enjoyable time for me,” said Jeanne. “I enjoy reading about what’s going on in the county.”

Now, as she travels around the community, Jeanne finds herself noticing the progress of the different projects she read about in the catalog. “I see something every day that those grants are doing,” she said. “So many areas of our lives are touched by the work of the Community Foundation.”

A Hesperia-area cottage has been collecting memories for Diane Hazen’s family since it was built by her father and grandfather in 1935. Diane’s parents saved up gas rations during World War II to travel from their home in Wayne County to close up the cottage for the season. Diane took her first steps on the porch.

“I’ve been coming here all my life,” Diane said. “This place has been my refuge.”

She shared that refuge with her husband Charles, who enjoyed visiting as much as Diane did. They often made the trip from Romulus, where Charles worked as an industrial planner and consultant and Diane was a library director.

The Hazens planned to retire to the cottage and were looking forward to becoming more involved in the community. Local friends suggested organizations they could join, and Charles was particularly interested in helping young people in the area.

Sadly, Charles passed away before the couple could begin the retirement they were planning. Diane worked for several more years before relocating here full-time. Through it all, she remembered Charles’s desire to help local students.

“He wanted to do something for young people,” said Diane. “And when he died, that’s what came back to me.”

Diane created the Charles W. Hazen Memorial Scholarship to support Hesperia graduates, particularly those pursuing a business or art degree. These areas reflect Charles’s own interests. “His degree was in business and his love was art,” said Diane, who keeps several pieces Charles created on display around the cottage. “His career and work were fascinating for him too.” She remembers Charles often bringing home colleagues for dinner and conversation. “We made lots of good friends that way,” Diane said. “It was an interesting life we led.”

Over the last two decades, 17 Hesperia graduates have received the scholarship created in Charles’s
memory. Just as Charles always wanted, he and Diane are playing a part in helping local young people
plan for their futures and achieve their goals.

“Charles wanted to help young people here,” said Diane. “Through the scholarship he is.”

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.”

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.”

Jeff Clark and Lori Tubbergen Clark were born and raised in Newaygo County. Their parents and grandparents spent most of their lives here too. Proximity to family is still one of the couple’s favorite things about the area.

But there’s also a strong sense of community that continues to draw them in.

“I was on the receiving end of giving and kindness from countless people,” said Lori. “I reflect on those times now and am inspired and privileged to be able to pay that kindness forward.”

“We are very blessed,” said Jeff. “For those to whom much has been given, much is expected. We live by that.”

One of the ways they’re giving back is through a fund at the Community Foundation to support the Promise Zone, which Lori was instrumental in creating as former superintendent of Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency. A tuition-free path to a credential or degree can be a “game-changer,” said Lori, “for many of our youth and our community.”

Helping to keep that promise for years to come is important to Lori and Jeff and a main motivation for their fund.

“The Community Foundation has a strong reputation among community leaders and donors as the voice of community philanthropy,” said Lori. “It provides a long-term sustainable way to support our commitment to our students and the Newaygo County Promise Zone.”

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.”

In the early 1960s, a phone call from Bessie Slautterback—the Community Foundation’s first executive director— with news of a scholarship helped clear the way for Art Sanders to start dental school. It also inspired a deep desire to give back.

“I made the commitment to myself then that if I ever had the chance to help other people, especially in my home community, I would try,” said Art.

He did exactly that through his career traveling the world as a dentist in the military. Now, he’s continuing the commitment by creating funds at the Community Foundation to support White Cloud, the hometown that gave him a strong start.

Through an estate gift, Art will create or contribute to funds for local students, the library, and efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. He feels that growing up in White Cloud gave him access to a quality education and a respect for differences. His years with the military and living abroad built on this foundation, broadening his appreciation for different cultures and views.

“Looking around the world, we all need to understand each other better,” said Art. “We all have a lot of stereotypes and prejudices that we need to look at and then dispense with.”

For Art, giving through the Community Foundation is a way to combine his gratitude for his hometown with the areas he’s most passionate about, like challenging bias and promoting education.

“I guess I’m some kind of idealist,” he said. “I think it’s very important to give back. That’s the way to improve our whole society.”

After 35 years teaching math at a large high school near Chicago and even more years as a tutor in Newaygo County, Dawn Anderson knows that algebra isn’t everyone’s favorite thing. Her goal as a teacher was that her own love of math would be contagious and encourage her students to love it too.

The same idea—that we can be inspired by the passions of others—also played out in Dawn’s childhood as a member of a Grant-area family actively involved in giving and service.

“My parents were great givers,” Dawn said. “They worked hard, they earned everything they got, but they were very fortunate. Seeing people give encourages you to give too.”

Dawn and her sister, Lynne Robinson, have both carried forward their family’s legacy through volunteerism and partnerships with the Community Foundation. Dawn currently serves on the board of the Amazing X Charitable Trust and is a member of the Community Foundation’s Our Next 75 donor group.

By giving of her time and other resources, Dawn hopes to play her part in making the community better.

“It’s important that we have the museum, that we have education, that we feed people here who are hungry,” said Dawn. “It all comes down to wanting to live in a nice place. What you give to others and what others give to help you makes it nicer. It’s a circle of giving and it helps everyone reach a higher level.”

James King was introduced to the power of philanthropy early in life. When he came to live with his grandmother in Fremont as a child, he had a front row seat to what he now realizes was the beginning of Fremont Area Community Foundation. James’s uncle Bob Magee was a son-in-law to William Branstrom and James remembers listening during family dinners as the adults talked.

Philanthropy often came up around the table, especially the importance of money raised locally being invested locally. This belief and the passion of these community leaders—a group that would include Bessie Slautterback and others—grew into what is now the Community Foundation.

While James and his wife Jamie live primarily in Arizona, they still spend time every year in the Emerald Lake cottage that James inherited from his grandmother. The cottage, time with relatives, and friendships in Newaygo County keep them connected to James’s hometown. “The closeness of a small town was beneficial to me growing up,” said James. It also sparked an interest in lakes, plants, and nature. “Growing up here, close to nature—being in a small town gave me that,” he said.

James followed that interest to a PhD in geosciences and a career running museums like the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Throughout his career, James saw the power of philanthropy at work again.

“I know how important the money people gave to my institutions was,” said James. “I have seen what can happen when people help a little. So now I’m trying to help a little.”

James and Jamie are both involved with foundations in their home areas. Here, James has created two funds at the Community Foundation: a scholarship and a fund to support Fremont’s library, a place he loved as a boy.

“I’m not rich, but I’ve seen how modest amounts can grow and make a difference,” said James. “Capital, when properly managed by a foundation, can grow over time. I have seen it in action my whole life and it led me to this.”

In 1971, Don Bont was hired as the director of Newaygo County’s new Career-Tech Center. “The work to put it together was daunting, creating something from nothing,” Don said. “We were humbled that we could provide so much for kids and the community.”

Around the same time, Don met Ann, a teacher in Fremont, and the couple were married in 1974. Throughout the years, they have shared a commitment to support their community in various ways. The importance of giving was ingrained in both from an early age. “We both grew up in homes where we were taught to give,” said Ann.

Don and Ann were foster parents, Young Life mentors, and volunteered with local organizations. Don was also a trustee on the Community Foundation’s board.

Although the Bonts primarily reside in the warm climate of Arizona these days, they still consider Newaygo County home and their donor advised fund at the Community Foundation ensures they can continue to support the community they love.

“If there becomes a need we’re particularly interested in, we know we have the fund to turn to,” said Ann.

“The Community Foundation provides the vehicle to make an impact,” said Don. “It can be overwhelming if it’s just me, just one person. But it isn’t just me if I use the Community Foundation as the catalyst. As a collective group, we can make a real solid impact.”

When Bill and Judy Johnson designed their scholarship, they got creative. Instead of helping a student with just the first semester or year of college, they worked with the Community Foundation to set up a scholarship that follows one student all the way through.

“We thought it would be better if the student could have that help for all four years,” said Bill. “We’re so glad the Community Foundation was willing to do this with us.”

“It was such a joy to us,” added Judy. “And a joy for David as well.”

David Grodus—the scholarship’s first recipient—is a Newaygo graduate now attending Ferris State University. He has stayed in touch with the Johnsons, sending them photos from move-in day and a note when he made the Dean’s List. Bill and Judy have no doubt he’ll be successful in whatever career he chooses.

“We hope he’ll see the value of investing in other students someday too,” said Judy. “I really think he will.”

“We think higher education is transformative,” Bill said. “Judy and I are both from what I would call humble beginnings. Our lives were transformed by a higher education opportunity. It’s important to us to try to help others have the same opportunities we’ve had.”

Despite chapters in their lives lived in other cities, John and Ailene Pugno always felt the pull of their hometowns. John’s parents both experienced poverty while growing up and wanted something different for their own children. Moving to Fremont brought them opportunities in a small, close-knit community. “My dad coached here and started a business,” said John. “My parents were part of the fabric of the community. I always felt like part of the town. My heart was always here.”

Ailene grew up in Newaygo, close to the Muskegon River and close enough to school and the library that she could walk there. “I’ve moved away a couple times, but I’ve always come back,” she said.

Now living between their two hometowns, John and Ailene are creating two funds through their estate plan to permanently support their community. One fund will be dedicated to environmental causes and is inspired by a love of the Muskegon River. The other will support Newaygo’s library and Love INC.

“If someone has to fight to save these resources someday, they’ll have a place to come for a grant,” said John.

“There are so many people who need help,” said Ailene. “We wanted to do something local and something that would last.”

In the middle of a blizzard on icy roads, nurses Brandee Chase, Amy Drilling, and Ann LaPres-Hindes drove to Lansing to tour a hospice home. Each had known patients without families to care for them at the end of their lives and had seen how overwhelming that care could be. They made the drive that day looking for a solution.

“The minute we walked in, we knew this was it,” said Ann.

“We all cried on the way home,” added Amy. “This was given to us to do.”

The Newaygo County Compassion Home was born in that blizzard, a dream of a warm home where people could complete their lives in dignity, comfort, and love. Technical support from the Community Foundation and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy helped the organization build a strong foundation and a combination of grants for operating support and matching gifts has provided support for growth.

The community has also embraced them by volunteering and donating supplies, time, and—for one local family—a home. The organization had just purchased a building to renovate in Fremont when the White Cloud home came along as an “unexpected gift,” said Diane Rudholm, executive director. “It gave us the opportunity to start working on our mission.”

The White Cloud home has welcomed 36 guests since it opened. Some have stayed only a few hours, others a few months. They have told their stories around the kitchen table, visited with family in the cozy living room, and rested in their bedrooms with a favorite television show. Guests’ care and comfort is overseen around the clock by trained staff and volunteers who are deeply passionate about their mission.

When renovations are complete at the Fremont location, the second home will allow the organization to serve more guests and will also include a room reserved for respite care. “It represents a lot of growth and opportunities,” said Diane.

“It’s such an honor to have people come into our home,” said Ann. “The end of life is a really difficult subject for people to talk about. It gets glossed over, but it’s so important. Everyone has the right to die with compassion and love.”

Don and Sue Farmer believe in the power of scholarships. Sue, a retired Hesperia Middle School teacher, is grateful they helped her complete her post-secondary education. The Farmers’ two children also utilized scholarships to keep their student debt down, something that Don—a banker—does not take for granted.

“In my work, I see so many people with debt,” Don said. “It’s not uncommon to see people with $60,000 to $100,000 in student loan debt. They can’t even afford to pay it back with the jobs that they have.”

“You don’t want to see kids have to struggle so much,” said Sue. “They should be able to concentrate on important things like their family, not having to juggle three jobs just to get by.”

Wanting to do something to help, the couple created the Don and Sue Farmer Family Fund scholarship. They crafted the scholarship with criteria that reflects the passions of their family. It will be awarded to Fremont and Hesperia graduates with preference to those planning to attend Central Michigan University— Don and Sue’s alma mater—and study business or education. The scholarship also reflects the couple’s gratitude for the ways the Newaygo County community has impacted their lives.

“If it helps someone to go on, to go a little further, that’s where the satisfaction comes from,” said Don. “It takes the support of the community to be successful. We’re giving back to the community that’s given to us.”

Tom and Char TenBrink love a good adventure. It started with a belated honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls. When Char mentioned on the trip that she had never been to Washington DC, they got back in the car and kept driving until they got there. They’ve since visited almost every state and love heading “down the road less traveled,” said Char. “You run into the most unexpected things. It’s so much fun.”

“We get to a stop sign and I say, ‘Right or left?’” said Tom.

Wherever they venture, Newaygo County still always lures them home. Both grew up here and spent most of their careers with Gerber. Their love of the area prompted them to begin thinking about other ways to give back. They started talking about creating a scholarship at the Community Foundation someday through their estate plan. However, after learning about the Community Foundation’s build-a-fund program, they decided to use it to start their scholarship now.

“We could set it up the way we want and see how it works,” said Char. “Having grown up in the area seeing the good things the Community Foundation has done, how it has grown, and the outreach it has—it seemed like a good place to give back and it keeps it local.”

They ultimately hope their scholarship will help a wide range of students train for good jobs and achieve their dreams.

“I’m excited to get it started,” said Tom. “I’m looking forward to being able to help somebody.”

Randy and Shari Paulsen and their two sons all attended Fremont High School (FHS). Both boys were involved in athletics and spent hours practicing. “They wouldn’t come home,” Randy said with a laugh.

“They had so much fun and found something they excelled at with sports,” said Shari. “It was an incentive to keep their grades up and it’s such a big factor in socialization in school.”

“We understand what it means for kids,” said Randy.

That’s why he and Shari created a fund at the Community Foundation to support FHS and its athletics programs. They’re especially focused on students who want to get involved but can’t afford to play.

“My vision would be that any kid that wants to play a sport doesn’t have to worry about how to pay for it,” said Randy.

In addition to their fund, the Paulsens have included the Community Foundation in their estate plan and are now members of the Our Next 75 donor group.

“We chose to give through the Community Foundation because you see what the funds can do in the community,” said Shari. “We want to make sure our grandkids have the same opportunities or better than we have had. We want to make this the best community possible for them.”

According to Lola Harmon-Ramsey, her family has “been here forever.” Lola grew up in Fremont and graduated from Fremont High School. After several years in Lansing and Grand Rapids, she and her husband Mark Ramsey—an Oklahoma transplant—decided they wanted their own children to grow up in Newaygo County too.

“We like the safety and sense of community,” said Mark. “People look out for each other.”

In addition to building a family here, Mark and Lola started a small recycling business with a trailer Mark made by hand. Today, Cart-Right Recycling handles hundreds of tons of recyclables each year.

Despite the busy schedules that come with owning a business and raising a family, Mark and Lola are still passionate about being involved in the community. Lola currently serves as a trustee on the Community Foundation’s board.

“My parents taught me to be active and engaged,” said Lola. “Newaygo County keeps investing in us, so that’s what we do in return.”

When she and Mark heard about the Our Next 75 donor group at the Community Foundation, they jumped at the chance to further invest in Newaygo County’s future.

“When I heard about it, I thought ‘We can do that,’” said Lola. “For the first time, I thought maybe I can be a philanthropist. It’s important to me to show my peers that you don’t have to have a lot of money. You just have to show up, you have to care. Your investment doesn’t have to be huge, but it does make a difference.”