“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.”

Al and Marlene Karnemaat love what they do. To them Karnemaat Farms isn’t just their family business—it’s a family calling.

“We are a family of faith,” said Al. “It’s the most important part of our lives. And we believe we’ve been called to the greatest career there is: to produce good food in safe ways for a hungry world.”

Along with their sons, Kent and Tom, two grandsons have now joined the business. They focus primarily on growing vegetables that are sold locally and nationally.

“It’s a gift to be doing what you enjoy,” said Al. “You spend too many hours in your career not to love what you do.”

Al and Marlene’s enthusiasm for their work also shows through in the scholarship that they established at the Community Foundation. The Karnemaat Family Scholarship helps local young people train for their own rewarding careers in agriculture or other food-related fields, ministry, or conservation.

“Our hope is that it gets them off on the right foot so they can have a career they like and be successful,” said Marlene.

“We can all look back and find times when someone helped us,” said Al. “We have been blessed and are thankful there’s an opportunity to do things like this for local youth.”

Iris Davidson remembers her husband Charles as a man who was interested in everything. The couple co-owned a restaurant in Newaygo and enjoyed fishing together. Charles loved the outdoors, public speaking, and athletics. He ran sports conditioning camps and worked as a coach, teacher, and principal.

When Charles passed away in 2000, Iris wanted to find a meaningful, lasting way to honor his life and legacy.

“I wanted to do something more than just buy flowers that would be gone in a few days,” she said. “I would rather see that money help someone. I wanted it to do something for somebody.”

At the suggestion of one of Charles’ friends, Iris and family established the Charles William Davidson Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation with gifts from friends, family, and community members.

“I think it is a wonderful thing to do,” said Iris. “It’s grown so much. Now all these young people have benefitted from it.”

The scholarship, awarded annually to a graduating student athlete from Newaygo High School and White Cloud High School, is a permanent way to remember Charles as well as a way to invest in the future.

“Helping students continue their education is important, especially in this changing world,” said Iris. “They can be more knowledgeable and they can discover things they can do to help make a difference in the world.”

Alyssa Greene, a graduate of Hesperia High School, received the Possibility! Scholarship from the Community Foundation in 2013. This special full, four-year scholarship served as a springboard to the rest of her life.

Now a sophomore at Central Michigan University, Alyssa has weathered homesickness and the adjustment to college life and is enthusiastically becoming more involved on campus. She has joined the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and is an initiate of an honors fraternity.

“It’s going great,” said Alyssa. “I have learned a lot about myself and who I am. I feel like I found my path.”

Alyssa credits her scholarship with helping to make it all possible. “It signified hope to me,” she said. “It meant I could do all the things I wanted to do with my life.”

With a major in criminal justice and a minor in psychology, Alyssa hopes to one day facilitate a juvenile rehabilitation center. She looks forward to mentoring at-risk youth next semester and plans to begin her career as a juvenile probation officer.

She is also determined to find a way to demonstrate what she calls her “undying gratitude” for the opportunities she has been given. “I want to give back to my grandma who raised me and to the community,” said Alyssa. “I want them to know how grateful I am. They helped me achieve my goals and dreams.”

Joe Berger is an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings and in his tenth season in the NFL. But he’s also a Newaygo High School graduate who has not forgotten the important role his family and home community played in his success.

“I walked on in college, I didn’t have a football scholarship,” Joe said. “My whole family has a part in where I ended up. So does this community. I received three scholarships from the Community Foundation and I know how important they were to my future.”

In addition to his career in the NFL, Joe holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Tech.

Determined to give back and to demonstrate the importance of giving to their three young children, Joe and Abby (Murray) Berger created the Berger Family Scholarship at Fremont Area Community Foundation. It is awarded to two scholar-athletes each year—one from Newaygo High School and one from Grant High School, Abby’s alma mater.

“We set up this scholarship to give someone else a chance to get to school,” said Joe. “Since the Community Foundation helped me, I wanted to help someone else persevere and have a chance to succeed.”