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.

Community Leaders Focus on Isabella County Needs and Collaboration

The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) joined forces with the United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 to present a Community Leaders Mini-Conference. Modeling the collaborative behavior both organizations seek to encourage in others, the event focused on the results of an Isabella County Community Needs Assessment and explored potential solutions to address the greatest needs going forward.

In early 2018, MPACF contracted with the Center for Applied Research and Rural Studies (CARRS) at Central Michigan University (CMU) to conduct a random sample needs assessment survey of Isabella County households. CARRS worked with the Community Foundation to develop survey questions with input from many local leaders. Upon completion, 531 households had either participated in an interview over the phone or returned a mailed questionnaire. During the Mini-Conference, Mary Senter, CARRS Director, presented key findings from the assessment. Community members are encouraged to view the full report, as well as an executive summary online.

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After hearing the assessment results, Mini-Conference participants split up for deeper conversations about the top two local needs identified. A discussion on “Access to Affordable Health Care” was led by Marita Hattem-Schiffman of MidMichigan Health, Jennifer McNally of Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, Tara Soules of McLaren Central Michigan, and Jennifer White of Isabella Citizens for Health. A discussion on “Jobs that Pay a Living Wage” was led by Craig Clark of Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works, Christine Hammond of Mid Michigan College, Jim McBryde of Middle Michigan Development Corporation, and Erin Strang of CMU Research Corporation.

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To wrap up the half-day event, participants reconvened to hear from an ongoing, successful community collaboration among leaders from Barry County, Michigan focused on education and workforce development. Travis Alden of Barry County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Alliance, Lani Forbes of Barry County United Way & Volunteer Center, Bonnie Gettys of Barry Community Foundation, Nancy Goodin of Highpoint Community Bank, and Fred Jacobs of J-Ad Graphics encouraged Isabella County leaders to set goals and make decisions based on facts in order to treat real problems—not just the symptoms of those problems. Panelists talked about keeping the end goals in mind when collaborating, and communicating openly with one another. When asked about how they avoid stepping on one another’s toes, Forbes responded, “We don’t have toes.”

“It doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” Gettys added. “We’re all committed to improving this place we love.”

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Amanda Schafer of MPACF and Annie Sanders of UWGIC ended the event by challenging participants to determine next steps for our community and to consider the role each was willing to play to affect change.

MPACF seeks to shape the future of Isabella County by cultivating bold solutions for strong, vibrant, and inclusive communities. UWGIC envisions a strong community where everyone achieves their potential through quality education, financial stability and healthy lifestyles.

Community Foundation Welcomes New Directors

The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of two new Directors to its Board, Emma Powell and Steve Pung.

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Powell is a resident of Mt. Pleasant and works as a faculty member at Central Michigan University in the Political Science & Public Administration Department. She is also the Campus Director for the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential. Powell has served on the Community Relations and Scholarship Committees of the Community Foundation, and has recently taken on the role of Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Advisor. When asked about her increasing involvement with the Community Foundation, Powell said, “I am looking forward to engaging with the YAC and to learning more about the needs of youth in Isabella County. The Foundation supports a multitude of initiatives and organizations, and I am thankful to have been asked to serve the community through MPACF.”

Following his graduation from Central Michigan University, Steve Pung made Mt. Pleasant his home. After 37 years of working for Isabella Bank, he retired as President in 2015. Pung has a long history of volunteerism in Mt. Pleasant, including service to the United Way and McLaren Central Michigan. He has previously served on the Foundation’s Scholarship, Community Relations, and Development Committees. He currently serves as a Trustee for Art Reach of Mid-Michigan, Isabella Bank Foundation, and is President of the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy. “I was very pleased to be asked to serve again on the Foundation’s Board of Directors,” Pung said. “I have always been impressed with the Foundation’s impact on our community through numerous grants and scholarships while providing leadership on key community issues. I look forward to learning more about important community issues and needs, and striving to make a positive impact in our community.”

Powell and Pung join twenty-two other community members who serve as Directors representing a wide range of professional expertise and organizational experience: Jay Anders, Jill Bourland, Bill Chilman, Shirley Martin Decker, Cheryl Gaudard, Dyke Heinze, Chuck Hubscher, Al Kaufmann, Dave Keilitz, Bob Long, Rick McGuirk, Linda Morey, Lon Morey, Mary Ann O'Neil, Marcie Otteman, Laura Richards, Brian Rush, Michelle Sponseller, Jan Strickler, Bob Wheeler, and Bryan Wieferich. The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity that seeks 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 grantmaking and providing leadership on key community issues.

More Than One Hundred Scholarships Available

The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) is now accepting applications for more than one hundred (100) scholarships. Most are available to local students who will be completing their senior year of high school or GED this spring. There are also more than a dozen scholarship opportunities for students already enrolled in, or planning to return to, some form of higher education.  Frequently asked questions and a link to the online application system can be found at: www.mpacf.org.  The application deadline is Friday, March 8, 2019.

“Our goal is to receive qualified scholarship applications matching the specific criteria for all 103 scholarships available. If we meet that goal, $118,500 will be awarded to assist local students with their educational goals, thanks to the vision of the scholarship founders.” Cheryl Gaudard, Scholarship Committee Chair

Since 1990, the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) has transformed the unique charitable dreams of individuals, families, and businesses into the reality of permanently endowed charitable funds that support a wide range of worthy causes in the community. One-third of the permanently endowed funds held by MPACF provide scholarships, making the Community Foundation a leader in awarding scholarships to deserving students in the local area. Last year, MPACF awarded 91 scholarships totally more than $87,000 to students in and around Isabella County.

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Isabella County Needs Assessment Survey: Report of Findings to the Community

In early 2018, the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) contracted with the Center for Applied Research and Rural Studies (CARRS) at Central Michigan University (CMU) to conduct a random sample needs assessment survey of Isabella County households. CARRS worked with the Community Foundation to develop survey questions with input from many local leaders. Upon completion, 531 households had either participated in an interview over the phone or returned a mailed questionnaire. The Community Foundation has received a report on the survey results, and community members are encouraged to view the executive summary online.

MPACF seeks to shape the future of Isabella County by cultivating bold solutions for strong, vibrant, and inclusive communities. In collaboration with the United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties, the Community Foundation will convene local community leaders in early 2019 to present the assessment results and explore potential solutions to address the greatest needs going forward. More details on this event will be available soon.

Seven Local Nonprofit Leaders Complete Leadership Learning Lab

Seven local nonprofit leaders, selected by the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF), recently celebrated the completion of an eight-month program focused on leadership development. Facilitated by NorthSky Nonprofit Network, the Leadership Learning Lab connects and empowers nonprofit leaders and gives them the skills to strengthen the organizations and communities they serve. Funded by the Frey Foundation and MPACF, the Leadership Learning Lab aligns with the Foundation’s strategic efforts to support capacity building among local nonprofits.

Jon Breithaupt (Chippewa Watershed Conservancy), Kate Connors (Life Choices of Central Michigan), Ryan Griffus (Isabella County Restoration House), Samantha Jones (Girls on the Run of Central Michigan/Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum), Kaye Peasley (Clothing INC), Amy Powell (Art Reach of Mid Michigan), and Kim Seidel (Isabella County Child Advocacy Center) made up the first Isabella County cohort. Monthly sessions covered topics such as adaptive leadership, nonprofit board development, fund development, mission driven storytelling, grant writing and more.

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One participant described the experience as “…incredibly valuable in giving me the tools and confidence I need to become an emerging leader in my organization.” During a celebration ceremony on Thursday, December 13, participants were asked to describe their experience in one word. Responses included: equipped, empowered, and enriched.

MPACF will offer the Leadership Learning Lab experience again in 2019 for five local nonprofit leaders. The second cohort will meet April through December. More information will be available in January. To learn more about the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation and their efforts to support local nonprofits, visit www.mpacf.org.

Fifteen Years of Women Helping Women and Girls in Isabella County

The Women's Initiative was founded in 2003 by a group of local women who wanted to provide for the needs of women and girls in Isabella County. "We learned that far too many women and girls in Isabella County were in need of serious help,” said Co-Founder Kay Smith at the time.

“We believed that it was time for women to be given the opportunity to become philanthropists on their own--not as spouses or daughters, but as independent donors,” said Co-Founder Judy Smith. And that's what happened. While the initial goal in 2003 was to raise $50,000, the group raised more than $80,000 in just the first four weeks. “When the women of Isabella County learned that other women needed their help, they came through in a big way, and they continue to do so today!" Judy added.

As an endowed fund of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation, contributions raised by the Women’s Initiative are pooled and invested. Since 2003, hundreds of women have made pledges to the Women’s Initiative Fund, and more than 2,100 individual gifts have been made. Women have given cash, appreciated stock and other assets, and often pay tribute to a friend or loved one by donating in their honor or memory. The Fund now holds nearly $400,000. Only the interest earned in the Fund is granted each year; this will allow grantmaking to community organizations benefiting women and girls, forever.

Over the last fifteen years, more than 40 grants have been awarded to organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region, Christian Counseling of Mid Michigan, Christmas Outreach, Community Compassion Network, Foster Closet of Michigan-Isabella County, Girls on the Run of Central Michigan, Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, Isabella County Child Advocacy Center, Listening Ear Crisis Center, Mid Michigan College STEM Program for 8th Grade Girls, Mt. Pleasant Department of Public Safety, and Women’s Aid Service.

On Tuesday, October 16, 2018, the Women’s Initiative will highlight the most recent grants awarded from the Fund during their “Look Who’s Talking” luncheon. The event is one of two annual fundraisers hosted by the Women’s Initiative. Half the ticket price of $50 will be added to the permanent endowment fund. The luncheon will feature Mt. Pleasant native and CNN political correspondent Sara Murray. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2007, Murray joined the Wall Street Journal where she covered politics and economics. In 2015, Murray accepted a job with CNN in Washington D.C., where she has worked as a White House Correspondent and covered the Russia investigation. Sara will share her journey from Mt. Pleasant to our nation’s capital with an audience of 400-500 event participants.

McLaren Central Michigan and Mercantile Bank of Michigan are sponsoring this year’s speaker. The luncheon will take place at the Soaring Eagle Conference Center from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. Complimentary valet parking is available at the hotel entrance. Tickets must be purchased in advance for the seated event from a member of the Women’s Initiative or directly from the Community Foundation. Tables of 8-10 may be purchased for reserved seating by visiting or calling the Community Foundation. Cash and check are accepted as payment.

Nonprofit Center Closer to Goal

Two weeks ago, Jae Evans, CEO of Isabella Bank Corporation, stood up during Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s annual breakfast event and announced that Isabella Bank would match dollar for dollar the next $60,000 raised in the campaign for the Strickler Nonprofit Center. Since that announcement, $27,125 has been matched, bringing the total raised to $835,844.

 A group of nonprofit organizations focused on addressing poverty in Isabella County announced back in April that they planned to raise at least $1 million to make permanent a nonprofit center located at 1114 W. High Street in Mt. Pleasant. During the September 11th breakfast, Executive Director Amanda Schafer, and United Way’s CEO Annie Sanders, told the story of leasing the building from Victory Christian Church and transitioning it into space for at least four local charitable organizations serving those living in or near poverty.

Community Compassion Network, Isabella County Restoration House, Clothing INC, and The Care Store provide critical services - food, shelter, clothing, and personal care items - and have been located under one roof since last fall. Long term, these partners and others are also committed to reducing overall poverty levels in Isabella County. Charlie Burke, a volunteer with the Center from the start, also shared his vision. “The Center will coordinate the development and implementation of services to train individuals with the necessary potential abilities to find, perform and keep employment,” Charlie said.

Jan Strickler agreed back in April to make a lead gift to name the Center in memory of her husband, Bill. During the recent breakfast, Schafer shared that the fundraising team had decided to name the facility after both of them. Tearfully, Strickler joined Schafer on stage and encouraged those in attendance to reach out to an agency within the Center in order to volunteer. She then proudly declared the total raised to date was $781,594. “Several of you in the room have made gifts, and for that we thank you,” Strickler said. “We’d like to challenge you and the greater Isabella County community to help us raise $220,000 more between now and #GivingTuesday, a national day of charitable giving planned for November 27th.” Evans was the first to respond, pledging on behalf of the bank to match dollar for dollar the next $60,000 raised for the campaign.

Community members may support the Strickler Center by contributing to a fund established for this purpose at the Community Foundation. Donations to the Center may be made at mpacf.org, and checks may be mailed to MPACF, PO Box 1283, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48804. Follow “William and Janet Strickler Nonprofit Center” on Facebook for regular updates.

Community Foundation Highlights Accomplishments and Makes Special Announcements During Annual Breakfast

Two hundred and fifty community members gathered Tuesday morning for an update on Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s accomplishments over the last year in endowment building, grantmaking, and community leadership.

In total, the Community Foundation ended 2017 with 287 permanent endowment funds. To these funds, as well as to a few special project funds at the Foundation, contributions in 2017 totaled more than any year prior - nearly $2.8 million. Ten new funds were established and gifts ranged from $5 to six figures. With an annualized investment return of 14.2%, the Foundation ended 2017 with nearly $21 million in assets.

“The Community Foundation allows anyone and everyone to become a philanthropist, and there is no doubt that every gift, large or small, when properly invested, can enhance the lives of others,” said Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair Lynn Pohl.

Nearly $600,000 in grants and scholarships were awarded in 2017. The largest sums supported education, human services, and sports/recreation. There were also significant resources awarded to causes related to community and economic development, health, arts and culture, and volunteerism. Linda Morey, Grant Review Committee Chair, shared some of the Foundation’s efforts to support capacity building among local nonprofit organizations through partnerships across the region and with CMU’s Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance.

Since 1990, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $6 million in student scholarships and grants to schools, local governments and charities. “That’s $6 million granted while also maintaining the value of every endowed gift ever given to the Foundation!” exclaimed Scholarship Committee Chair Cheryl Gaudard.

Volunteers dedicated more than 6,000 hours of their time in service to the local community through the Foundation in 2017. To make decisions about grantmaking, many of these volunteers look for relevant and local data on areas where community improvement is most needed. The Foundation partnered with CMU’s Center for Applied Research and Rural Studies to conduct a community needs assessment this spring. A total of 531 Isabella County residents were interviewed by telephone or completed print surveys sent through the mail. Assessment results will be shared soon. The Foundation’s Board hopes to provide avenues for community dialogue about the most concerning issues, and ultimately to build collaborations to mobilize residents around those issues.

Community Relations Chair Marcie Otteman Grawburg highlighted the recent launch of Epicenter Mt. Pleasant, a digital magazine funded by a coalition of Isabella County institutions that focuses on stories of talent, investment, innovation and emerging assets. Epicenter went live on August 16th and features stories about bold startups, emerging places, catalytic talent, transformative projects, and ideas across Isabella County. Grawburg encouraged breakfast participants to subscribe at bit.ly/SubscribeToEpicenter.

The latter half of today’s program focused on updates related to the Nonprofit Center, the location of this year’s breakfast. The Foundation’s Executive Director Amanda Schafer, and new United Way CEO Annie Sanders, told the story of leasing the building from Victory Christian Church and transitioning the building at 1114 W. High Street into space for four local charitable organizations serving those living in or near poverty. Community Compassion Network, Isabella County Restoration House, Clothing INC, and The Care Store provide critical services--food, shelter, clothing, and personal care items--and have been located under one roof since last fall. Long term, these partners and others are also committed to reducing overall poverty levels in Isabella County. Charlie Burke, a volunteer with the Center from the start, also shared his vision for a Jobs Academy. “The Center will coordinate the development and implementation of services to train individuals with the necessary potential abilities to find, perform and keep employment,” Charlie said.

In April, a fundraising team comprised of Nonprofit Center supporters announced a campaign to raise at least $1 million to purchase the building from Victory Christian Church to make the Center permanent. It was also announced that Janet Strickler had agreed to make a lead gift to name the Center in memory of her husband, William. Similar exciting announcements were made during this morning’s breakfast. Schafer shared that the fundraising team has decided to name the facility after both William and Janet. Tearfully, Strickler joined Schafer on stage and encouraged those in attendance to reach out to an agency within the Center in order to volunteer. She then proudly declared the total raised to date was $781,593.67. “Several of you in the room have made gifts, and for that we thank you,” Strickler said. “We’d like to challenge you and the greater Isabella County community to help us raise $220,000 more between now and #GivingTuesday, a national day of charitable giving planned for November 27th.” Jae Evans of Isabella Bank was the first to respond, pledging on behalf of the bank to match dollar for dollar the next $60,000 raised for the campaign.

Community members are asked to support the Strickler Center by contributing to a fund established for this purpose at the Foundation. Donations to the Center may be made at mpacf.org, and checks may be mailed to MPACF, PO Box 1283, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48804. Breakfast participants were encouraged to follow the Strickler Center on Facebook for regular updates on volunteer opportunities and fundraising milestones.

Questions about the Community Foundation and the announcements shared today should be directed to Amanda Schafer at (989) 773-7322. Questions about the direct services provided within the Strickler Center should be directed to the relevant partner agencies. Find links at mpacf.org.

Community Foundation Awards $98,900 in Scholarships

The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) awarded 96 scholarships totaling $98,900 to local students during a reception on May 31, 2018. Established by individuals, businesses, and organizations wanting to help local students achieve their educational goals, most scholarships support high school students planning to attend an accredited college, university or trade school in the fall. Each scholarship is unique and reflects the values and interests of those who established it.

For more information, or to support any one of these scholarships, contact Amanda Schafer, Executive Director, at (989) 773-7322 or visit www.mpacf.org.

The 2018 Community Foundation Scholarship Recipients are:

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Photos from the reception may be found on the MPACF Facebook page.

Public Invited to Respond to Online Community Needs Assessment

What does our community need? Where is the greatest potential to improve the quality of life in Isabella County? The public is invited to participate in an Isabella County Community Needs Assessment.

The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation has contracted with the Center for Applied Research and Rural Studies (CARRS) at Central Michigan University (CMU) to complete a survey of Isabella County residents. CARRS was founded in 1995 to assist community groups needing the social science research expertise of CMU faculty, staff, and students. CARRS partnered with the Community Foundation to develop the community needs assessment with input from several local leaders.

A random sample of Isabella County residents was contacted over the course of the last few months via telephone and mail, and now the public as a whole is invited to respond to the online version of the survey. The survey can be accessed here and will remain open for two weeks. All responses will remain confidential, and no information that could identify individuals or households will ever be published. The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete. Those who have completed the survey via telephone or mail need not respond again. 

A summary report of the assessment findings will be shared with the community this fall.

Foundation Awards 96 Scholarships

The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) will award 96 scholarships totaling more than $98,900 to local students during a Scholarship Reception on May 31, 2018. Established by individuals, businesses, and organizations wanting to help local students achieve their educational goals, most scholarships support high school students planning to attend an accredited college, university or trade school in the fall. Each scholarship is unique and reflects the values and interests of those who established it.

For more information or to support any one of these scholarships, contact Brittany Sherrill, Program Officer, at (989) 773-7322.

The 2018 Community Foundation Scholarship Recipients are:

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