Linda and Tony are the founders and passionate supporters of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College, their alma mater. Linda, a poet, provided the quotes for this interview. “The idea for the series was community-based. It didn't come from the English department, the office of the president or any other college directive. It came from the community.” Through their philanthropy, they have supported the operations budget and endowment fund for the 15-year-old program. Four times a year the series offers readings and lectures by nationally acclaimed poets and writers.
Linda and Tony also support Spectrum Health Foundation and a youth writing program at Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities on Grand Rapids’ southwest side. “We look at those areas in our community where an organization is doing really important work or may not have a high profile but deserves our commitment.” They also like to support arts groups that don't have easy access to federal or state funds. And, since these funds have been significantly cut in recent years, their sense of commitment is even stronger.
What do you get from giving?
“It gives us a wonderful sense of satisfaction that we're making a real difference. For example, the Contemporary Writers Series has had a broad influence in the area. We initially thought that it would be a program primarily for the college students, but its reputation has grown. Over 15,000 people of all ages have attended the series. It has become a permanent fixture of the literary life in Grand Rapids. It’s a perfect example of how your gift can give back to you!”
Why the Community Foundation?
“We feel the Community Foundation supports a wide range of causes and organizations that enhance and deepen the lives of people in the area. It is important to support the community where you live. I came here from Cleveland and had a generous full-ride scholarship to Aquinas. That college and this community have given me so much, opening many doors in my life. As a wife and mother, as a poet and writer, I feel very fortunate to be living here in West Michigan. It is only fitting to pay it forward.”