Philanthropy 2007 - GR style!
December 31st, 2007Welcoming in the New Year is a time when we take stock of the year past and look forward to the promise of the next year. And let me tell you, I am looking forward to 2008!
Before we move to the future, I want to note a few key moments from 2007 in terms of philanthropy in Grand Rapids and West Michigan. So in no particular order, here is Diana's list of philanthropic milestones:
* Collaboration continues to be the leadership behavior that wins the day! And no program reflects that more than the Kent School Services Network (KSSN) as designed by a team from the Kent County Family and Children's Coordinating Council (KCFCCC) over a period of about three years and recommended by the Grand Rapids Education Reform Initiative (GRERI) back in 2002. Nonprofit organizations, the school districts in Comstock Park, Godfrey Lee and Grand Rapids, funders, KISD leaders and county leaders all have banded together to create community schools in 6 elementary schools in GR and in the two suburban districts noted. This means that families have access to health and human services at school based sites and while more formal evaluation is underway, first year results have seen a dramatic decrease in suspension rates and an increase in attendance. These are two key factors in the mix that can lead to improved academic achievement. Foundations - the public sector - and the strength of our nonprofit sector all should take a quick bow and then we move forward!
* Bill Martindill, a wonderful gentleman of 90+ years, along with other supporters mounted an effort known as the S.O.U.L of Philanthropy (Sharing Our Uncommon Legacy of Philanthropy) in 2007. Bill has raised a great deal of money to launch this effort providing the opportunity for some of leading philanthropists to be interviewed and having those interviews preserved on video. We are lucky to have the achievements of some our leading philanthropists in Grand Rapids - Rich DeVos, Fred Meijer and many others made available for the present and especially for the future generations going forward.
* Meijer Good Schools! This program deserves more "shouting from the rooftops"! The Meijer Foundation generously donated a $1million last year with encouragement for matching dollars to honor those schools in the GRPS that have made good progress toward being a good school! It is a program of the ERI and a wonderful gift of $250,000 was received from the Bank of America two weeks ago!
* A grateful community thanks Peter Wege who has led our area in a bold manner to help us understand the importance of caring for our environment. He was doing this long before it was the style and the behavior! Our community leads the country in LEED certification for our buildings - both old and new and Peter deserves most of the credit for this. An example of this is the fact that the Grand Rapids Art Museum just opened its doors to its stunning new building thanks in large part to many generous donors in our area, especially the $20 million lead gift from Peter Wege which provided the impetus for the musem being only LEED certified art museum in the country - and likely the world! Our area nonprofit organizations are taking this very seriously when mounting efforts to build their buildings or rehabbing existing buildings. Most of the area foundations require that any capital effort seeking funding needs assurance that LEED certification is a key step in the process.
* Our health care systems are growing and making this a destination for superior health care including Spectrum Health and their growing campus, the VanAndel Institute, Metro Health and their impressive new complex in Byron Center and the expanding St. Mary's Heath Care System. Remarkable!
* Also remarkable is the generosity of Tom and Mickie Fox who have now donated a $1 million to each hospital so each could purchase the da Vinci robotic surgical system which allows for less invasive surgeries. WOW! And this is in addition to the $1 million that the Foxes donated to GRCF toward the new home we have purchased and will be renovating in 2008.
* Sad is the passing of some of our most notable area philanthropists - including David Hunting, Jr., Mary Pew and Grace Hauenstein. Our condolences go out to their families and many friends and supporters and to those families who lost loved ones not noted here.
* Happy news! This year marked the 85th anniversary of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and earlier this year the $100 million milestone was surpassed in terms of grants made in our community in that period of time! That is why GRCF is here. For Good. For Ever!
There are many more events/activities to note but this is a good time to pause and thank you all for a grand 2007 and I hope that 2008 will demonstrate the continued leadership, the generosity and the collaboration most needed for our community to grow and prosper!
Putting a grant on a fast track!
December 16th, 2007Sometimes the work that the staff does goes unnoticed because it is "part of our job" after all. Well I am going to proudly say our Program staff did a superior job recently on a grant along with our great volunteers on our Resource Committee and Board of Trustees!
The foreclosure rate throughout Michigan is literally going through the roof and we are not immune here in West Michigan and Kent County in particular with more than 3,000 families a year losing their homes! Laurie Craft, Program Director, leads our efforts in the areas of community and economic development and in a recent meeting noted that Home Repair Services completed a pre-application requesting funds to add a counselor for their Foreclosure Intervention Program. This program, by the way, is Michigan's largest non-profit program focusing on this critical problem.
If we had waited for a more complete proposal, the grant would not have been approved until our February board meeting - with a lag time of close to two months not to mention the time to find the right person for the job, it could have been early spring before more families would be served!
Because we had funded this effort in the past, we knew the intricacies of the program and just needed some additional information that the agency supplied quickly. Laurie and the program team only had three business days to prepare the request to be approved at our board meeting held last Monday, December 14th. All the necessary paperwork and due diligence was prepared, the Resource Committee met by conference call and by Monday, the request was presented to the board and enthusiastically approved and now HRS will have five counselors who will make a good positive impact on the foreclosure problem!
While the problem is extremely serious, I am so very pleased that we were able to recognize that this program needed attention immediately! Kudos to our staff, Resource Committee and Board of Trustees!
We also know that we have a serious problem that will require long-term attention so we will be convening key parties in our community to work on this issue. Can we prevent it in the future? Perhaps, but right now we are responding to the situation and hopefully through effective collaboration we all can create a sustainable response serving all homeowners in our community.
Our investment in our community
December 2nd, 2007When people think of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, they point to the many grants made each and every year addressing all aspects of our community. Because of the generosity of many wonderful donors, the staff and Board of Trustees and our dedicated volunteers, spend a great deal of time reviewing proposals for funding from our area fine nonprofit organizations!
As noted previously in my blog and on this website, the Foundation is in the process of making another investment in our area by purchasing the 100 year old Icehouse on Grandville and Oakes! We plan on going for LEED certification, paying attention to preserving and amplifying the old bones of this beautiful building and to invest in a wonderful way to be part of the downtown growth and development.
Community and economic development and growth are critical to this Foundation. We are leaders in many aspects of this in the greater Grand Rapids area. Our investment through grants is one way of demonstrating this and buying this building is another clear indication of our long term support to our great metro area.
So if you think or hear that this money could be used better to go back out to the community, we think that is exactly what this building represents! New Markets Tax Credit financing and donations will go a long way to help us accomplish this dream and to help grow this Foundation for the present and most importantly for our future! Our projected cost savings means that those dollars will be directed to meaningful projects in our area. This is a great investment!