Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation

For good. For ever.

Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of Isabella County, now and for generations to come, by attracting and holding permanent endowed funds from a wide range of donors, addressing needs through grant making and providing leadership on key community issues.

STEM Lab Created to Further Educate Shepherd Public Schools Students

The updated STEM Lab is the newest addition to Shepherd Elementary School. It serves to educate and protect young students. The Shepherd Community Fund in Honor of Robert Bates, Kellogg Youth Fund, David B. and Susan K. Keilitz Family Fund, and Michael D. and Dianne Morey Community Needs Fund helped make the funding possible for the STEM Lab improvements throughout the Summer of 2018. More than 800 students, ages 5-12 years old, have been able to utilize the STEM LAB this year, learning more about the changing world of technology around them.

There is now a 6 x 6 Lego wall, and a two sided activity center, consisting of a 3 x 4 foot framed pegboard and a 3 x 4 foot magnetic whiteboard. Students can learn from a magnetic whiteboard table, charge electronic devices, and experiment with data coding. Shepherd Elementary School was also able to buy two iPads, four Amazon Fire Tablets, several Lego and Knex education kits for different grades and abilities, two Dash robots and two Botley robots. These new tools encourage dexterity, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and working with advanced technology. The Dash robots respond to sounds and voices. The little robots encourage interactive learning while being fun to use. The Botley robots help teach children quick and fun lessons about coding and help guide them through various STEM skills.

The addition of a door to the Lab, as well as a wall in the back of the room, will help protect students in case of emergencies, such as a lock down. As jobs in STEM fields continue to grow, this lab will help expand the students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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The Junior Farmer Program offers Hearts, Hooves, Healing, and Hope to Young Students

After school activities are fairly common for students nowadays. For some students that might be little league baseball, gymnastics, or a music lesson. HopeWell Ranch wanted to offer a different type of after school activity to five Weidman Elementary students. With backpacks in hand, the fourth grade students headed to HopeWell Ranch to spend an hour and a half working hands-on with animals, learning to garden, and participating in team building exercises. After 32 weeks the students were congratulated with a graduation ceremony and received a certificate for their newly gained “Awesome Jr. Farmer” status.

The David B. and Susan K. Keilitz Family Fund helped to support the first year that HopeWell Ranch hosted their Junior Farmer Program. HopeWell Ranch co-owners, Ty and Jodi Stuber, coordinated with the Weidman Elementary At-Risk Teacher, Angela Dey, to find students that were qualified to participate. The activities at the ranch helped these students come out of their shells, move past fears, and work on problem solving skills. After seeing the success of the pilot program, HopeWell is planning on expanding the program to other schools.

Each of the 21 sessions were broken down into five topics— equine, fowl (chickens and ducks), rabbits, goats, and gardening. Within these topics the students learned about animal care, animal breeds, and animal lifestyles. The students read books and/or related articles about the animals. Along with that, the students completed journals and worksheets to write about their experiences. Overall, HopeWell Ranch provided these students with skills and memories that will be ingrained for years to come.

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s grantmaking, please visit mpacf.org.

American Red Cross Supports Families before and after Disaster Strikes

The American Red Cross mission is not limited to just drawing blood. They are always prepared to help communities and families in need when the unexpected happens. In their Home Fire Campaign, the American Red Cross has made it their goal to help families in Isabella County be better prepared to deal with unexpected home fires. Fires at home are one of the most common disasters experienced every year and it can leave families with absolutely nothing. With this campaign, the American Red Cross hopes to help families be better prepared to deal with disaster before and after it strikes.

With funds provided by the Kay Smith Family Fund, the American Red Cross was able to inspect 36 homes and install 84 new fire detectors. Along with this, staff and volunteers helped educate families on how to create a home escape plan and what to do in the event of a home fire. Due to the suddenness of home fires, it is important that families are able to follow predetermined plans, helping to ensure their safety. Once the fire has been extinguished, the American Red Cross is there to support families looking for housing, necessities, and support.

Through continued funding, the American Red Cross plans to expand the Home Fire Campaign and assist as many families as possible. This campaign has already proven its importance as it is responsible for saving the lives of 511 people across the nation, including 10 Michigan residents. Unfortunately, the American Red Cross has come across countless unprepared homes and victims of house fires. The ultimate goal of this program is to save lives.

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s grantmaking, please visit mpacf.org.

Earthquake Tables Shake Up Science Lessons at Sacred Heart Academy

You would never expect an earthquake to hit Mt. Pleasant, but with the addition of three new “Tremor Tables” Sacred Heart Academy students are shaking up standard science lessons. Students in grades 7 through 12 are learning about engineering, math, physics, and earth science with a new hands-on approach. These tables help simulate earthquakes in a fun and safe way. Students can experiment by constructing their own buildings, test seismic wave effects, compete in Science Olympiad tower testing, and more.

The Kellogg Youth Fund has helped make these “earthquakes” possible for students in their exploration of STEM sciences. Sacred Heart Academy was able to expand their STEM Lab resources by purchasing the three Tremor Tables, add-on packs, and other related supplies. These fun new tools have helped encourage students to expand their knowledge of our planet. Although the new Tremor Tables are primarily used in the 7 through 12 grade classrooms, the new tools are also available to K through 6 grade students.

Since September of 2017, students have experienced how these natural events can shape our planet. Sacred Heart Academy students no longer have to create mini-earthquakes by hand. These tables have opened up a vast number of scientific experiences and memories that can help shape future careers for these young students, or future seismologists.

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s grantmaking, please visit mpacf.org.

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Protecting Future Generations

Having a newborn is a whirlwind of emotions: excitement, love, and unfortunately, stress. New parents all of over the world feel the same way every day. The Isabella County Child Advocacy Center (ICCAC) is here to help families that need a little extra support. ICCAC partnered with Cribs for Kids to provide families with a “Safe Sleep Survival Kit.” This kit includes a Graco Pack and Play (with top bassinet), a Halo SleepSack, a Pack n' Play crib sheet, a pacifier, educational material with a safe sleep message and baby's first book. Not only does this kit help families in need, it ultimately saves lives.

The Women's Initiative Fund provided funds to ICCAC to ensure families in need have access to these lifesaving kits. For 33 years, ICCAC has worked to provide safe environments for families with children. The survival kit program is an extension of that goal. Many local human service agencies and local hospitals teamed up with ICCAC to select 10 Mt. Pleasant families to receive the Safe Sleep Survival Kits.

This practice of providing sleep kits is new to our community. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of infant deaths that occur due to unsafe sleep practices. With the success of this program, there is hope to continue to protect those that cannot protect themselves.

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s grantmaking, please visit mpacf.org.

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Summer Writing Camp for Michigan Youth

During the summer break students often find themselves looking for ways to occupy their leisure time. The 2018 Chippewa River Writing Camp was able to provide an educational experience for 12 upper elementary school students from the Mt. Pleasant area. The eager students, led by two elementary teachers, explored the Central Michigan University campus and learned how writing and technology can intersect. During their four days together, the students saw several great features of the university’s campus, including the botanical garden, museum, and Park Library.

With support from the Kellogg Youth Fund, the camp was able to support students with demonstrated need to continue their education through scholarships. The fund was also able to provide stipends for the two teachers that led the young students. The goal of this camp is to help engage students in their creative writing abilities, while also exploring a college campus and utilizing what it has to offer.

The Chippewa River Writing Camp set a goal to reach 20 students. They plan to reassess the program with the hope of spreading the information more widely to perspective participants. In 2018 the Chippewa River Writing Camp was able to provide 12 students with memories that will impact them for years to come as they continue in their education and passion for writing.

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s grantmaking, please visit mpacf.org.

Spreading Christmas Joy

The idea of the Christmas season brings joy to many but dread to others. This is not due to a lack of Christmas cheer, but due to the fact that some community members are unable to provide for themselves and their families. In December 2018, Christmas Outreach was able to spread Christmas joy to approximately 1,781 Isabella County community members.

This outreach program was partially made possible through funds given by the Women’s Initiative Fund, of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation. Christmas Outreach was able to distribute new winter clothing, blankets, books, toys, and boots to community members in need. Along with that, Christmas Outreach partnered with the Isabella County Transportation Commission (ICTC) who generously donated free rides to and from Central Michigan University’s Finch Fieldhouse, the staging area for this make shift market. The ICTC also offered free transportation of Christmas trees to the riders’ home. For two days, December 7th and 8th, community members were able to utilize this free bus ride to Finch Fieldhouse to pick out items for themselves and their family to make their Christmas a little brighter.

Although their generosity is not limited to just Christmastime, Christmas Outreach has made it a goal to provide for those in need during the holiday season. They were able to distribute hundreds of items, many of which still had sales tags on them. In 2018, this effort to provide helped serve over 1,000 community members with items essential to survive the winter weather. This ability to give new items is one way that Christmas Outreach is unique and helpful to others.

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s grantmaking, please visit mpacf.org.

Interactive Bike Ride Through Okaya, Japan

In September 2018, the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum opened their new One World exhibit. The One World Exhibit is an interactive bike ride that takes the rider through the streets of Okaya, Japan, the sister city of Mt. Pleasant. This experience allows people of all ages to peddle a custom bike in front of a monitor that displays real footage from Okaya. The staff at the museum collaborated with colleagues in Japan utilizing a “go-pro” camera to make this a fun experience for all riders.

The Kellogg Youth Fund helped provide the necessary funds to purchase and install this new exhibit. This recent addition has provided entertainment for visitors that come from all over to discover new things. Beginning in February of 2018, the Museum worked side by side with designer, Shane Smith from Wildwood Studios, to create this wonderful new attraction.

The staff receive near daily comments of praise for their newest exhibit and the overall experience of being at the museum. Those involved with the project are very pleased with how the exhibit turned out and the excitement it brings to visitors. The bike not only encourages fun, it helps stimulate gross motor skills and allows the user to experience another part of the world. This exhibit is the ultimate combination of fun and cultural education.

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Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum adds PleasANT Park exhibit

The Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum seeks to spark creativity, nourish learning, and inspire curiosity in children through an engaging, hands-on learning environment. They recently installed a new exhibit, called PleasANT Park, which focuses on showing children how to engage with the outdoors in an ever-growing technological society.

The Kellogg Youth Fund, the Jane McNamara and Louise Williams Fund and the Ranck Family Fund provided funding for the hollow log portion of the exhibit, which is intended to promote gross motor development in children. Since the installation of the PleasANT Park, the Discovery Museum has seen an increase in attendance. The museum is excited about the popularity of the exhibit and would like to develop educational programming for the exhibit that will teach children about conservation.

Melissa Langlois and her children, ages 4 and 6, love the new exhibit. “Jaxson and Lauren discovered the PleasANT Park exhibit a few days after it was installed and they could hardly contain their excitement! The ant maze has become a race for them to see who can get through first without following each other. My son especially enjoys climbing up on the hollow log to pretend he is scouting for deer and other wild animals. Lauren has decided that it is a perfect spot to read books.”

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Popular Author Speaks to Students

Sacred Heart Academy (SHA) wanted to bring awareness and excitement to their students about the importance of reading, writing and history in early 2017. They set a goal to have nationally-known author and Michigan native, Janie Lynn Panagopoulos, speak with students.

The Kellogg Youth Fund made this goal possible for SHA.  Panagopoulos is noted for the authentic historical fiction she has written about Michigan and the surrounding area. She spoke to individual classes at SHA in March, tailoring messages to each grade level. She provided information in a way that makes the past come alive for her readers.

She met with students in grades two through six and offered a 45-minute presentation that engaged the students in a story brought to life by her personal animation. She also met with the youngest students at SHA, sharing a special message to help them develop a love of reading and books. She made a stop at the Chippewa River District Library to hold a special reading program open to children across the community. “She brings reading alive for your youngsters and instills a love of books which will last a lifetime.”

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Students have Access to more Technology

The Kellogg Youth Fund, the Lon Morey Family Fund and the Community Impact Fund helped fund the project “Laptops for Literacy.” This project added 32 new laptops and because of this addition, teachers are now able to test multiple classrooms at a time. The test windows are limited and more computers allow for more students to test in a timely manner. Teachers can now test in their classrooms, so that during technology classes other instructional goals can be obtained such as keyboarding, Microsoft word, PowerPoint, etc.

The 88 students, kindergarten through sixth grade, now have greater access to the computers instead of just during their technology class. This will help the teachers be able to do more projects and testing in a shorter amount of time. Students will now have greater accessibility to research, write papers and create PowerPoint presentations.

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After Prom Party Keeps Kids Safe

For the last 20 years, Shepherd High School has hosted an After Prom Party. This event is a safe, positive and entertaining alternative to other not-so-safe options for students during the late night hours after prom. The goal is to host a huge party with lots of fun activities and prizes for Shepherd High School Juniors and Seniors. Groups of parents have volunteered to organize this event every year.

The Shepherd Community Fund in Honor of Robert Bates provided funding for last years’ event. On May 6-7, 2017 the party was held at Morey Courts from 11 PM to 3 AM. Each year the event is a little different in order to attract new students who may have attended the previous year. 2017’s After Prom Party included:  three different inflatables, Karaoke, ice skating, volleyball, basketball, dodge ball, Wally ball and a game of corn hole. There was also a photo booth available for students to take pictures with their friends. The attendance in 2017 was up by 58 students, totaling 178. “One of the best parts about our prom is After Prom, a place for us all to hang out together and do activities we usually don’t get to do,” said senior, Abby Schlorff.

The After Prom event will continue as long as there are volunteers who are willing to help with the three fundraisers that are hosted throughout the school year, and the community continues with their generous donations. “Being at After Prom is one of those high school moments that I won’t forget,” said senior, Sam Travis.

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Keeping Babies Safe while they Sleep

For the last 33 years, Isabella County Child Advocacy Center has been working to support a community where children and their families have a voice, as well as an advocate, as they navigate toward confidence in a safe and successful future. The ICCAC is committed to child advocacy through multidisciplinary team collaboration within child abuse investigations and education programs dedicated to ensuring safe and healthy environments.

 The ICCAC is partnering with Cribs for Kids to provide a free “Safe Sleep Survival Kit” to low income families who may not be able to purchase a crib for their infant. The Women’s Initiative Fund provided funding for this program, which is aimed at reducing the number of infant deaths that occur due to unsafe sleep practices.

The survival kit will include a Graco Pack n’ Play, a Halo SleepSack, a Pack n’ Play crib sheet, a pacifier, educational materials with a safe sleep message, and a baby’s first baby book. This program is currently projected to benefit ten families in the community. As a new project in the community, the hope is to educate all parents on the importance of providing a safe sleep environment for their babies. 

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Stationary Food Pantry Opens

More than one in seven people in Isabella County struggle with food insufficiency. Community Compassion Network (CCN) is a charitable organization with an ecumenical outreach, dedicated to feeding and caring for the hungry with dignity and equity. CCN was founded by Mt. Pleasant Community Church and rapidly grew into a community-wide, charitable organization.

CCN provides supplemental food to individuals and families in need. The organization has been hosting mobile food trucks every two weeks, serving approximately 225 families each time. Forty percent of those who come to the CCN mobile food trucks are over 60-years-old and have worked their entire lives, but their social security is no longer sufficient to cover food, rent, heat and medication. In addition to the mobile food trucks, CCN packs 600 bags of weekend food for local children in partnership with Isabella County schools. While there are several small food pantries that serve portions of Isabella County, CCN is the only pantry that serves residents county-wide with the only requirement being that guests meet USDA poverty guidelines.

A grant from the Community Impact Fund and W. Sidney Smith and Judith French Smith Family Fund in late 2017 helped CCN to open and stock a stationary food pantry that opened in January, 2018. Based on their history with stationary pantries, CCN anticipated serving almost one and a half times the number of families served by the mobile trucks. Grant dollars were used to purchase food through the Greater Lansing Food Bank, a regional affiliate of Feeding America, at twelve cents per pound. The CCN stationary pantry is now open four days a week, approximately four hours per day, and is located at 1114 West High Street in Mt. Pleasant.

 

Ronald McDonald House Supports Local Families

The Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan (RMHWM) serves to provide a “home away from home” for families who travel to the Grand Rapids area for critical health treatment of children and youth through their Family Support Program. On average, they will support eight to ten families from the Mt. Pleasant area each year for an average of 21 nights, resulting in an average savings of $2,500 per family.

 In 2016 alone, the RMHWM Family Support Program hosted eight families from the Mt. Pleasant area for a total of 102 nights, resulting in savings of $12,750 for the families. RMHWM recently received a 2018 Challenge Grant from the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation of Grand Rapids, which will match all new contributions from community foundations by 100 percent.

The Family Support Program received $650 from the Community Impact Fund, $1,250 from the Kellogg Youth Fund, and $600 from the Missy and Doug LaBelle Foundation Community Impact Fund. The program will be able to serve an even greater number of families as a result of these grants and the matching contributions.

The Mt. Pleasant community looks after their own, even when they need to go elsewhere for care. The Family Support Program of the RMHWM directly serves the Mt. Pleasant area by providing quality living accommodations so that families will have one less expense to worry about when seeking critical healthcare for their children.

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Clothing INC Gets Organized

Clothing INC has operated a clothing closet in our community since 2005.  The mission of Clothing INC is to make an impact on the lives of underprivileged in the area by providing free clothes to those in need.

The Staples Family Fund and the Weisenburger Family Fund provided grant funding in 2017 for Clothing INC to  purchase three-drawer storage carts, large bins, 177 totes and a computer. Before the grant award, undergarments were stored in totes under the clothes and on racks. It was difficult for guests to find their sizes because they were required to go through all of the bags and totes.

On April 22, 2017, more than 20 Eydent Insurance employees volunteered at Clothing INC to arrange clothing by size, and to label the large bins for use in the closet. A guest recently commented, “I like the look of your closet. The storage carts help me find what I need without assistance.”

Since moving to 1114 W. High Street in Mt. Pleasant, the amount of new and gently used clothing donated by community members has increased to fill a full shed more than once a day. Volunteers regularly sort and organize the donations, using the bins and totes. Items that are unsuitable for distribution are taken to other local charities.

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Counseling Services Exceed Expectations

The Family Initiative Project was born out of a need for affordable counseling services for Isabella County families and individuals. Faye Schaeffer, Christian Counseling of Mid Michigan (CCMM) employee, described the lack of affordable counseling as a “need especially among lower income families in the community. The financial hurdle, along with the mental health stigmatism makes reaching this demographic very difficult.” The impact of this program results in more stable families, community and local schools.

Every three years, the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee conducts a Youth Needs Assessment to ascertain the top issues facing Isabella County youth today. Stress, school pressure, depression and loss have consistently been identified as some of greatest struggles. The YAC recommended support for the Family Initiation Project from the Kellogg Youth Fund as a way to address a top need identified in their survey. The Fabiano Family Fund, a community impact fund, also partially funded this project.

CCMM offers services to anyone in need, regardless of their ability to pay. Employees felt pleasantly surprised at how far they were able to stretch the grant funding and the overall number of families and youth that were served. The total number of child and adolescent sessions held exceeded 85 with 100% of the services being provided at a reduced rate. CCMM reports that 73% of families will continue with services beyond the date of the project. CCMM will continue to offer services at affordable rates without ever turning anyone away due to an inability to pay.

Members of the Youth Advisory Committee present a check to CCMM volunteer, Kim McBryde

Members of the Youth Advisory Committee present a check to CCMM volunteer, Kim McBryde

Project Weidman Builds New Playground

Project Weidman was formed in 2016 with the goal of bettering the Weidman Community. They recently completed Project Playground, a rebuild of Mitchell Memorial Park Playground, in Weidman, Michigan. Project Weidman took interest in the project when Gleaner Life Insurance brought the poor condition of the recreational facility to their attention after a company picnic.  

The Access to Recreation fund, the Brewster Access to Recreation Fund, the Mary Ellen Brandell Access to Recreation Fund, and the Janet Maar Strickler Access to Recreation Fund have provided funding to assist in purchasing the equipment for the new playground. The Project Playground Committee took about a year to plan for the new recreational facility, and built it in two days. On August 26, 2017, construction was completed. The old playground was more than 60 years old and had become unsafe for children to play on. This left Weidman residents without a safe play structure for their children unless they traveled to neighboring cities.

Since the new playground has been constructed, Weidman residents have been seen using it every single day. Children play on the equipment while adults lounge at the picnic tables reading books and watching their kids. The playground has even become a venue for birthday parties. A sidewalk is to be added in the spring, and there are plans for a pavilion and decorative landscaping to be added in upcoming years. The Weidman community now has a safe space for their children to play.

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Sacred Heart Academy Uses Technology for Interactive Teaching

Sacred Heart Academy (SHA) recognizes that engaging with the newest technology is important for their students. Sixth grade teachers at the school believe that one of the best ways to engage children in math and science is to use short-throw projectors. These projectors essentially turn any classroom whiteboard into a SMART board.

The Kellogg Youth Fund recently provided funding for Sacred Heart Academy to purchase two short-throw projectors for the sixth grade classrooms. The projectors connect to teacher computers and allow students to engage in problem solving in math and science using interactive websites.

For example, students are able to follow along in math lessons, actually seeing the work steps needed to solve an equation. According to sixth grade teacher Kathy Wyman, "I am able to project an entire math problem and the steps necessary to solve it. By being able to do so, the students are able to see how our work flows and fits together throughout the entire problem rather than seeing it in chunks or individual pieces. We see the complete puzzle."

The short-throw projectors are easier to see compared to flat screen television screens. The entire whiteboard turns into an interactive avenue for the students to learn. Thirty SHA students have benefited from the new technology this year, and future sixth graders will too.