Tom and Carol Bieberle bought property in Newaygo County when they were expecting their first child. They eventually built a home there. “We have a really nice community,” said Carol.

Getting involved in the community was always a priority. “In high school it dawned on me that one way to express myself was to do things, to give back to the community,” said Tom. “I like to be involved.”

He and Carol have volunteered at mobile food pantries, been active in their church, and even participated in an informal giving circle with friends at Christmas. They created the Bieberle Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Fund at the Community Foundation as another way to give back and empower local individuals and families.

“In my research I saw that the Community Foundation was doing what I want to do–helping people,” said Tom. “We’re not rich by any stretch, but we can help.”

The Bieberles created a field of interest fund at the Community Foundation to target a specific community need–empowering local families and individuals–in a variety of ways.

Mike and Carolyn Hummel are both retired educators. “I was blessed with the best job ever,” said Carolyn. Their careers gave them a front-row seat to the impact that grants and scholarships from the Community Foundation can have. When Carolyn joined the Board of Trustees, the idea to create a fund of their own began to grow.

“We want to give back to the area that’s been so good to us,” said Carolyn.

“If we can do things for others, it’s fulfilling. It brings us happiness,” said Mike. “And the Community Foundation was a good avenue for us.”

“We have different passions,” added Carolyn. “This allows us flexibility to give to different things. Where there’s a need, we can help fill in the gaps. It’s our responsibility to the next generation coming up.”

Mike and Carolyn created a donor advised fund using the Community Foundation’s Build-A-Fund program, allowing them to build up to the fund minimum over five years.

Gary Woods loved maps. He began each year in his Hesperia classroom by drawing colorful world maps across the blackboard. Former students who went abroad often wrote to say that, thanks to him, they always knew exactly where they were in the world.

“Many wrote to him from the military,” said Gary’s wife Marcia. “Around the time of the Iranian embassy attack, a former student was sitting off the coast of Iran. He wrote, ‘I know where I am. Most of these guys have no idea.'”

After Gary passed away, Marcia and family created a scholarship in his honor. It will be awarded to Hesperia students studying secondary education and a portion of the fund will support social studies education.

“He meant so much to kids, touched so many lives,” said Marcia. “I don’t think even he realized the impact he had.”

Marcia started the Gary Woods Memorial Scholarship to support Hesperia graduates. It will be awarded for the first time in 2018.

After more than 40 years, Bob and Bonnie Erber are still full of enthusiasm for Fremont, the town that won them over with its safe neighborhoods and friendliness.

“At a restaurant it takes 10 minutes to get to the table because we have to stop and talk to everyone,” said Bonnie.

“Neighbors step in to help,” said Bob. “People are doing it because they care for you. There is a very special place in the world for people who go out of their way to give.”

Moved by gratitude, Bob and Bonnie sought ways to give as well. They are longtime Rotary members, active in their churches, involved in city and school projects, and have volunteered with many organizations through the years.

“I love to volunteer,” said Bonnie. “It’s my number one thing to do.”

“We like teaming up with the community,” added Bob. “We’ve been given a lot, so we want to give back.”

Through the Erber Family Fund at the Community Foundation, the couple has given scholarships to local students for years. They recently decided to direct their fund toward Promise Zone scholarships to help even more Newaygo County graduates build brighter futures.

“We’ve been so blessed,” said Bonnie. “There has always been food on our table and a roof over our heads. We want to give somebody else a chance to have what we’ve had.”

When Tyler Slaughter was 10, he and his father Mike volunteered as bell ringers during the holidays. At the end of their shift, Tyler observed, “It seems like the people who needed it most were the people who gave the most.”

Tyler’s life was marked by that kind of grace and empathy. After getting a degree in health studies, he changed direction in his late 20s and started a Master of Social Work program. To Mike, the move was in keeping with his son’s passion for helping others.

“I told him, ‘you’ve always been a walk-alongside kind of guy,’” said Mike. “Tyler was an encourager of world-class stature.”

After completing his MSW, Tyler went to work for Newaygo County Mental Health as an adult case worker. Just a year later, in April 2015, Tyler unexpectedly passed away, but “he died doing work he relished and deeply valued,” said Mike. “I needed to find a way to pay his life forward.”

Mike created the Tyler Patrick Slaughter Memorial Scholarship with support from family and friends, including Tyler’s coworkers at NCMH who organized fundraisers. The scholarship is for adult students, like Tyler, studying social work.

“We want to give them a jump start,” said Mike.

Connected by a shared desire to honor Tyler’s legacy, Mike stayed in contact with the people at NCMH. Last summer, he accepted a job there as a supported employment coordinator.

“This gives me a chance to make my own contribution,” he said. “I can best honor Tyler’s life by serving others as well as I possibly can. He is why I’m here.”

Betty Taylor was smart, funny, and hard-working. She loved to be around people, enjoyed time near the water, and was a dedicated member of her church for more than 60 years.

She also knew what it was like for life to head in unexpected directions, as hers did after a divorce.

“There wasn’t a help group then for women over 50 who needed to start over,” said Betty’s daughter, Holly Moon.

Her mother’s experience spurred Holly to begin thinking about ways to support women starting over. Then she started learning more about the challenges faced by local women in other types of crises like domestic violence or abuse. Holly remembered hearing that the closest emergency shelter was in another county and might only have a space or two open at any given time.

“If Mom knew about that, she would have wanted to help,” said Holly. In honor of their mom, Holly and her sister Linda decided to create the Betty Taylor Memorial Fund—a Build-A-Fund that will support the wellbeing of local women, especially those in crisis.

As a former Community Foundation trustee, Holly knew that their gifts would be invested wisely and that the fund would continue to grow and provide support to generations of local women.

“I know there are excellent people investing that money,” said Holly. “My sister and I thought it would be a really nice legacy. Mom would like the fact that the fund is there for the specific purpose of helping women and she would love to know that others could contribute.”

When someone thinks of a donor at a community foundation, the picture that comes to mind is probably not a teenager starting college. But when Julee Tellkamp was packing to move into a dorm last fall, she was also preparing to create the Dan and Jackie Tellkamp Fund at the Community Foundation.

Named for Julee’s parents, the fund will support youth who want to raise animals for the Newaygo County Agricultural Fair, something Julee has loved and been involved in for years.

“Raising an animal is a lot of work,” said Julee. “It teaches you responsibility. It pushes you out of your comfort zone.”

“I always encouraged kids to get involved,” she continued. “But the number one issue is that it’s a lot of expense up front.”

Knowing that the cost of purchasing an animal kept some young people from participating, Julee began thinking about how she could help. She decided to use the Community Foundation’s Build-A-Fund program to create a fund and grow it toward the minimum balance over five years. Her initial gift last summer came from the sale of her market steer.

“I saw it as an opportunity to impact the fair,” said Julee. “I would like to see more kids be able to be involved. I would like to give them the same opportunity I had.”

Brian and Diane Karsten may live in Grand Rapids now, but Fremont still holds a special place in their hearts.

The couple moved to the area in 1990 and became active members of the community. They were youth leaders at their church, where Diane was also instrumental in starting a youth mentoring program. Brian, a financial advisor, served on the school board and still works in Fremont for part of the week.

“Fremont has always been very good to us,” he said. “We’ve been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by being there.”

“And we believe you’re blessed to be a blessing,” said Diane.

In addition to their volunteerism, the Karstens decided to give back by starting a fund at the Community Foundation. They created the Karsten Family Fund scholarship through a stock gift, with a focus on supporting students who are deserving but may not be at the top of their class or receiving other awards.

“These are kids who worked just as hard or maybe even harder,” said Diane. “It shows them that somebody cares, even though they may not be in the top 10.”

“And the fund will live forever,” said Brian. “After we’re gone, our kids and grandkids can choose to give to it if they want. It will go on.”

“It was important to us that the money would stay in the community,” he continued. “Fremont supported us and our business. It’s a great community.”

Lois Brookhouse passed away on March 24, 2017, her 91st birthday. We were honored to spend time talking with her in late 2014 for this story.

Lois Brookhouse remembered the hospital guild meetings that her mother held at their farm between Fremont and Newaygo and the strong smell of disinfectant that would linger in the air long after. Guild members would gather to cut bandages of all shapes and sizes for use at the hospital. “Since they met at our house, all us kids had to help, too,” said Lois. By fifth grade, Lois was heading to the hospital to volunteer, a habit that she continued for more than 60 years.

Being involved in the community was as natural as breathing. “It was important to us,” said Lois. “This is where we live.”

That belief in the importance of community and generosity has become part of a family legacy. Lois’ grandson Jason Brookhouse grew up watching his parents and grandparents serve in their church, volunteer in the community, and help others. He and his wife, Kristin, started a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation as a way to give back.

They felt comfortable giving through the Community Foundation because of its reputation as a leader in the community but also because Lois had already paved the way.

In honor of her parents, Lois created the Nicholas and Pauline Boeskool Memorial Scholarship. Education has always been important to the family. Pauline was secretary and treasurer for the old Butler School board, and Nicholas taught woodworking for years. Six of Lois’ own children attended college, and the scholarship she started in her parents’ names will help other youth people have the same opportunity.

“We were brought up to help one another,” said Lois. “It’s the right thing to do.”

“She was little but fierce,” said KC Kelley with a smile, remembering her mother, Helen Myers. “She was a good role model. She inspired everybody.”

In particular, Helen inspired a love of the arts. She taught her children to play the piano and knit, saw them off to art camps, and was a behind-the-scenes fixture of many productions.

“She supported us in every single crazy endeavor,” said KC, who also remembers her parents supporting organizations like Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Helen grew up playing piano in church and studied art at Western Michigan University. And though she made a career in business, her love for art always bubbled up to the surface.

“Her artistry showed through in everything she did,” said Craig Myers, Helen’s son.

“After all,” added KC, “art isn’t a thing, it’s a way.”

In Helen’s honor, her family created a Build-a-Fund at the Community Foundation, growing a scholarship in Helen’s name over time. Now the Helen Myers Memorial Scholarship is awarded to young women who plan to study art and design, just like Helen did.

“It was a natural decision,” said Tracy Streichhirsch, Helen’s granddaughter, of creating the scholarship. “And I like that it’s in her name. She deserves that recognition.”

“She always wanted to support us in whatever we were doing,” said KC. “We wanted to do this so other kids could benefit the same way we did.”

Throughout their 56-year marriage, Charles and Marilee Whitman have always tried to leave things a little better than they found them.

“We never wanted to leave a town and have people say, ‘Whew, I’m glad those Whitmans are gone,’” said Charles. “I always tried to give back more than I took.”

Charles and Marilee came to West Michigan from Ohio in the early 1970s. When they moved, Charles asked Marilee if she wanted to live a bigger city like Grand Rapids. The answer was quick and clear.

“Marilee said, ‘get me to a small town!’” he remembered with a smile. The couple ultimately settled in Fremont.

“This is home,” said Marilee. “It’s a good place to be from.”

Along the way, Charles got involved in the Jaycees and Rotary. The couple is active in their church, and when their son joined Boy Scouts, Charles got involved there too.

“It’s a fun organization designed to teach leadership,” said Charles. “People have gone through the scouting program and now they use the qualities they learned in their day-to-day life.”

The Whitmans’ belief in the positive impact of scouting, along with their dedication to their local church, led them to create a fund at the Community Foundation to support both organizations. They also have a life insurance policy that will go to the Community Foundation.

“Life is good and God has blessed us,” said Charles. “We spent a lot of time sharing our time and efforts with the community and now we’re able to share some of our resources too.”

Harold Kalsbeek was a man who liked to stay busy and enjoyed figuring out how things worked.

“He had a good work ethic,” said Harold’s daughter Jane Vogel. “He kept busy all the time. Even into his 90s he went out to his workshop every day and puttered.”

“He wouldn’t hesitate to tear things apart to see how they worked,” added Jane’s husband, George. “He would fix things I would never have thought to keep.”

Harold liked old cars, camping, travel, and reading National Geographic. He was part of a disaster relief team through his church and enjoyed building bird houses from leftover pieces of wood. He liked playing cards and looked forward to morning coffee club in town with friends.

He was 95 when he passed away in 2015, and aside from his travels, Harold spent his 95 years in Fremont.

“He liked the people and what the community had for families,” said Jane. “As he was reaching his later years, he started thinking about what he wanted to leave behind. I think he wanted to give back to the community because he enjoyed being here and he wanted to help out.”

In early 2015, Harold created the unrestricted Harold Kalsbeek Family Fund at the Community Foundation. It will be used to meet critical needs in Newaygo County, no matter how those needs change in the future.

“My hope is that it will help wherever it’s needed,” said Jane of her father’s fund. “He liked it here, and he wanted different programs to be able to continue. He just enjoyed helping.”

Sisters Sarah Coville and Emily Zoulek know firsthand the impact a scholarship can have. Both graduated from Newaygo High School and received scholarships from the Community Foundation.

“It’s great to have that help and support from the community,” said Emily. “It helped me a ton.”

Emily is now a doctor in Minnesota. Sarah is a psychologist who works with children and young adults in Grand Rapids and Newaygo County. As they built their careers, the sisters remembered the support they received as they started out.

“I called my sister and said, ‘what do you think about creating a scholarship?’” said Sarah. “It wasn’t even a big discussion. We just decided to do it. We could have spent the money elsewhere I guess, but we’re simple people, we’re not extravagant. We’re happy in our professions, we like what we do, and we’re in a position to give back, so why not help?”

“Scholarships helped me get where I am,” added Emily. “And now we can help others.”

Using the Community Foundation’s Build-A-Fund program, Sarah and Emily created the Coville Scholarship. With the fund minimum now met, the first scholarship will be awarded in 2017 to a Newaygo graduate pursuing a career in mental or physical health.

“We wanted it to go to someone from our high school going into a similar field,” explained Sarah.

“There are always going to be jobs in the medical field,” said Emily. “I hope the scholarship truly helps someone achieve what they want and gives them that extra push to keep going.”

If anyone understands the importance of a healthy heart, it’s Nancy Deters. She had a pacemaker, a defibrillator, and then a heart transplant in 2000. Her husband, Lee, and daughter Kim both had heart problems as well.

It was in their memories that Nancy chose to use her donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation to place AEDs—automated external defibrillators—at Fremont Christian School and the former Providence Christian High School.

“An AED would have kept Lee alive,” said Nancy. “A defibrillator would have saved him. They’re wonderful things.”

The grant from the Lee and Nancy Deters Family Fund has helped to put more local people within life-saving distance of an AED. It’s a gift that honors Lee and Kim and gives back to the community where the Deters raised a family and built a business.

“It’s such a nice community,” said Nancy. “People look out for people.”

“She gives back,” said Nancy’s daughter Kathy of her mom. She smiled and added, “I’m always telling her, ‘You should go on a trip or something,’ but no.”

“It’s because God has given me so much,” explained Nancy, who identifies her faith and the prayers of friends and neighbors as her anchors through times of illness and grief.

“It seems like the more you give, the more you get back,” Nancy added. “When you count up your blessings, there are more blessings than problems.”

“I came here for a job,” said Woody Bowman, who became manager of Independent Bank’s White Cloud branch in 1990. “But I was willing to come here because of all the outdoor activities.”

“He was never a fisherman or hunter until he came here,” agreed Sue Bowman, Woody’s wife.

Now, 25 years later, Woody is still with the bank and loves spending time on local rivers and lakes. But he’s also come to realize that the warmth of the community and its people are one of the area’s biggest selling points.

“This is a close knit community where people truly do care about each other,” said Woody.

From Sue’s work as a teacher to Woody’s involvement in Rotary and his previous service on the Community Foundation’s board, the Bowmans are always on the lookout for ways they can get involved and make a difference in Newaygo County.

“We’re trying to meet community needs in our own small way,” said Sue.

“I think what motivates us is a sense of ownership and responsibility,” continued Woody. “This is our home. It’s a person’s responsibility to give back to the place that has supported them.”

One way the Bowmans give back is through their donor advised fund at the Community Foundation. Through their fund, they can recommend grants to support causes and organizations that are important to them and beneficial to the community.

“We’re not rich but we’ve been blessed,” said Woody. “That requires that you try to give back.”

“I’ve been here all my life,” said Doran Ditlow. And while he doesn’t care much for the cold winters in Newaygo County, he does have a special affinity for the rural area where he was born.

“I was born about as far out as you could get,” said Doran of his childhood home near White Cloud. “Our house was past where the blacktop ended, then past where the gravel ended.”

He graduated from White Cloud High School and served abroad with the Army. After returning home, Doran reconnected with Margaret–a high school classmate–and started a family. They were married for 51 years. Doran also worked hard to put himself and, later, his daughter through college.

“My parents were big on education,” said Doran. “College is important because, for most people, it’s one of their best shots at a good job and to make more money. Education gives you a common language and makes you more competitive.”

Wanting to find a permanent way to give other local young people a chance to continue their educations, he created the Doran and Margaret Stuthard Ditlow Scholarship for White Cloud graduates.

“My dad, brother, wife, and I all graduated from White Cloud,” explained Doran. “I’m helping kids like we were. I hope it helps them get their degree and find a good job.”

“It goes back to my parents,” Doran continued. Because in addition to a belief in the value of education, they instilled in him another important principle: “I wanted to leave things better than I found them.”

“You can’t go to college. Your parents don’t have the money.”

More than 70 years later, Jane Reath still remembers those words from her high school counselor. A year went by before the encouragement of another educator inspired her to go to college after all. Jane went on to become a high school counselor herself and has spent much of her life advocating for young people and education.

“Education has been important to me all my life,” said Jane. “If you don’t have the education, you can’t go anywhere.”

“Education helps you keep up with change,” added Norm Reath, Jane’s husband. According to Norm, Jane’s life has been characterized by her willingness to accept change, embrace innovation, and face challenges with positivity.

“She was always the optimist,” said Norm. “She accepts change. She says to me daily, ‘Norm, it’s all part of change.’”

Jane was an early advocate for the expansion of Fremont’s library and the first woman to serve on Fremont Public’s school board. She also wrote a grant for the high school’s first computer and helped other staff learn to use the new technology.

The funds the Reaths created at the Community Foundation—a scholarship in Jane’s name and a fund to support Fremont Area District Library—are a reflection of a lifelong dedication to learning and preparing young people for the future. And by giving through the Community Foundation, Jane and Norm are also confident that their gifts will continue to grow and support the community no matter what the future holds.

“As a counselor, Jane always told things like it was,” said Norm. “She respected honesty. And that’s the Community Foundation’s strength. We gave through the Community Foundation because the trust was there. Times change, but we’ve got trust.”

Just before the birth of their daughter Evie, Wes and Melissa Miller started a build-a-fund at the Community Foundation. The process allows them to build up to the endowment fund minimum over a five-year period. Once completed, the Millers can recommend grants from their advised fund to the projects and causes that matter most to their family.

“We established the fund out of gratitude,” said Melissa. “We wanted to give back.”

Both Wes and Melissa grew up active in their communities, a priority that has extended into their adult lives. Wes is a program officer at the Community Foundation and Melissa is the coordinator of WE CAN! Newaygo County and mentor for Early College Newaygo County. Now they look forward to teaching their daughter about the importance of giving back.

“The fund will allow us to support good work in the community while teaching Evie about philanthropy,” said Wes. “We can tell her that we have this fund at the Community Foundation and we can use it to support the things we care about. We can make it a family tradition.”

“We’ve been blessed,” he added. “The resources that we’ve been given aren’t ours, we’re just stewards. Newaygo County has given us a lot and this is a great way to say thanks.”

Stan and Joyce Beckman remember Joyce’s parents, Reo and Bessie McMillen, as generous people who lived with integrity and faith. Reo was a quiet man who enjoyed building and woodworking. Bessie was a teacher who loved being surrounded by family. Both knew what it was like to overcome adversity.

“They came up through all the tough stuff,” said daughter Joyce. “They lived through the Depression and World Wars. They knew poverty and hunger.”

Because of the struggles her father faced as a young man, he was deeply concerned with leaving enough behind for his children. “But we told him, ‘Dad, you are our legacy,’” said Joyce.

Joyce and Stan have been hard at work sharing that legacy. They established the Reo and Bessie McMillen Memorial Fund, knowing Joyce’s parents would be delighted at the thought of helping the community.

They are also passing down the values Reo and Bessie held dear through the generations of their family. Grandson Reo Heinzman served as president of the Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee from 2014-2015. Reo not only shares his great-grandfather’s name but also his enthusiasm for helping others.

“He has a great name to live up to,” said Joyce, smiling at Reo. “And he already is.”

Throughout his life, Chad Hickman made a difference in the lives of others.

“Anybody he crossed paths with in the community, he inspired,” said Chad’s brother Nathan. “He had passion, commitment, and drive. I’ve felt so fortunate to have him in my life.”

Chad was only four when he was diagnosed with life threatening brain tumors. The treatment that helped save his life also led to disabilities. Despite the challenges he faced, Chad’s life was defined by determination and joy.

“Chad didn’t let things get him down,” said Nathan. “I think the beauty of his life is that, despite everything, he reached a point of contentment.”

Chad loved cooking, bowling, and exercising at Tamarac. Above all, he had a special passion for environmental causes.

He composted, took pride in his garden, and continually looked for ways to conserve resources. He was also actively involved in recycling efforts. At his family’s business, Chad was personally responsible for recycling two million pounds of cardboard.

After Chad passed away in 2014, his parents Terry and Jackie, along with Nathan created the Chad Hickman Legacy Fund at the Community Foundation. It is a way for the family to continue Chad’s support of environmental causes while also giving back to the community.

“The community embraced him, loved him, and treated him as an equal,” said Nathan. “We created this fund to honor him and to thank the community that gave him an incredible quality of life.”