2013 Highlights

Written by cffmc Thursday, 20 February 2014 19:55

2013 was another outstanding gift gathering, and fund development year. We created 70 new named funds, which broke the previous record of 62, set just last year. Of that 70, our affiliates created an amazing 34! We believe the added support we provided each affiliate in 2013 (executive liaison and communications) made a difference. Mostly, though, those affiliates are on fire!

Gifts totaled over $16 million dollars! Following last year’s amazing $19 million total, 2013 did not set a new record, but we note that if we deduct the “Pennies From Heaven” gifts from each year (9M in 2012, 6M in 2013), gifts in 2013 were slightly higher than 2012. We are very grateful for the increasing activity of philanthropists and their confidence in the Foundation as a partner.  

We were very pleased to learn from 26 people that they’ve included gifts to the community through us in their wills or estate plans. I do believe the Transfer of Wealth message we continue to spread is having an impact. Love your Home: Leave 5%! 

And 2013 was an incredible grantmaking year, with a total of $10 million going out the door to make a difference in the community! That is far and away a record, beating the previous record (set last year also) by $3.5 Million dollars! Donor Advised Funds granted out $3.8 million dollars, actually more than was granted through our competitive process and Board discretionary funds. 

Even sending $10 Million out the door in grants, we ended the year at $163.8 Million in Total Assets. We never really had a chance to enjoy reaching $150 before we landed well past it!  (Not Complaining!)


Love Your Community Grant Winners

Written by Heidi Sytsema Saturday, 01 December 2012 14:13


We have winners!  Thanks to the Sand Products Corporation Fund, our very own Employee Fund, and TEDxMuskegon, seven of the Love Your Community project ideas are receiving $500 to become reality!

For more details about the winning projects, check out the Love Notes 2012 album on our Facebook page.



23 ideas...6 will win!

Written by Heidi Sytsema Monday, 24 September 2012 15:30

A quick update on the Love Your Community Grant Contest:

The application is now closed.  Creative ideas were submitted by 23 individuals, nonprofits, or businesses, and we can't wait to tell you what they are!  

But not yet.  Next Monday, October 1, we'll post all the ideas on Facebook and you'll have a chance to vote for the ones you like. The top six will get up to $500 to turn their ideas into reality.  

Stay tuned!


Love Your Community Grant Contest!

Written by Heidi Sytsema Thursday, 06 September 2012 14:17

What can you do with $500?

The Community Foundation for Muskegon County wants to know what YOU can do with $500 to make your corner of Muskegon County a little more lovable. So we’re launching another Love Your Community grant contest to find out!
(Download the application!)

Inspired by Peter Kageyama’s message encouraging citizens to declare their love for their community, we will award grants to six projects that demonstrate and share the love! Examples of these “love notes” include last year’s winning projects such as Movies on the Beach, a Play It Forward benefit concert for the Snurfer Sculpture, Portraits of White Lake photography class & exhibit, and more. All of these ideas were created by the people, for the people, using $500 to get them going.

Unlike our traditional grants, Love Your Community grants are open to anyone, including individuals and businesses as well as nonprofits.  Project ideas must be for the benefit of Muskegon County and its residents, whether for a specific neighborhood or community or the county as a whole; they are not for personal or business benefit.  

Submit your idea on this form by emailing it – including your picture/graphic and a 300 character description – to by 5pm on September 21, 2012.  On October 1, we’ll post the ideas on Facebook at and open up the voting.  The six projects that have the most “likes” at noon on Friday, October 12, will receive up to $500 to turn their ideas into reality!  The winning applicants will need to provide a more detailed one-page project description and a budget before funds are released.  As with all of our grants, decisions are subject to Foundation Board of Trustees’ approval.  

Grants are made possible by the CFMC Employee Fund (yes, we practice what we preach!), the Sand Products Corporation Fund, and by the gifts of many others, including one in gratitude for Richard Charles Ford’s commitment to the integrity of persons and of the community.


What $500 Can Do

Written by Heidi Sytsema Thursday, 19 July 2012 17:03

Perhaps you read about the $676,000 grant that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation just awarded us for the HEALTHY Muskegon project...HUGE!  It's a significant investment in the Muskegon & Muskegon Heights communities, and we're excited about the possibilities it brings.  

But on the other end of the grant spectrum...what can $500 do?  Quite a bit, we found out through our Love Your Community mini-grant contest last summer! Recently, some of the winning ideas have become reality:

  • The first Movie on the Beach in June was a success, so organizers are planning a second on July 28: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" won the vote!  This Friday you can also enjoy a spin-off project:  Movies on the Lawn at the White River Light Station, where "Up!" will show at dusk.
  • Paint the Pavement is scheduled to happen today, unless the much-needed rain causes a delay...A little intersection art by neighborhood students (and funded by our Youth Advisory Council) should slow traffic and be a point of pride once it's completed!
  • Enjoy the "Portraits of White Lake" photography exhibit at the Nuveen Center in Montague through July 28, and see what 36 locals love about the White Lake community.
  • Watch for Harvey Linenbottom and his Amazing Wowsical Traveling Show in downtown neighborhoods.  He's still recuperating from his first voyage to the opening of the Alcoa Children's Fountain, but he'll be taking to the streets again soon!
  • Visit Hackley Public Library, and congratulate them on their designation as a National Literary Landmark for their connection to author Verna Aardema.  Many of her stories were set in Africa, which was the theme of the dedication that took place in June!
  • Check out the new Snurfer Sculpture at the corner of 4th and Western in Downtown Muskegon.  No, the $500 didn't buy the sculpture. But it motivated 4 young entrepreneurs to put on a Play It Forward music event last fall, which raised awareness - and a few thousand dollars - for the sculpture!

With dollars large and small, people are making good things happen in Muskegon County!


2011 in Review

Written by Patrice Johnson Tuesday, 20 March 2012 19:25

Highlights of 2011
By Chris McGuigan, President/CEO 

 “WOW” was our Theme word for 2011, and WOW is how it felt!  Our 50th Anniversary year was full of both well-planned, as well as un-planned, projects, features, experiences and fun. Our operating mantra was to honor the Foundation’s tremendous history of accomplishments, while focusing with positive expectation and optimism on the future.  

We began and ended the year with Summer Celebration on our plate.   In January our newly formed PRI Committee approved the $200,000 loan to start Muskegon Summer Celebration off on what (we hoped) would be its recovery and next twenty years of success.  In September, the Board of Summer Celebration informed us that Summer Celebration would be dissolved and its creditors paid a fraction of the debt owed.    So, we worked to start up something in its place, and by December, it was very clear a new Festival and Art Fair would be in place for the very next summer.  

Peter Kageyama was a home run keynote speaker at our Annual Meeting.  His message of “Love Notes to your Community” still resonates and continues to inspire many creative gestures of love for Muskegon.  Fired up by Peter’s message, we dedicated Alcoa Celebration Square on a perfect summer day, hot enough to lure children and adults into the new Children’s fountain.  Later in the year, thousands of people cast their votes to fund seven other “Love Notes to the Community”.  The idea and words “Love Muskegon” have caught hold and continue to inspire action by many people, in many projects, small and large. 

Donor Impact continued to be an effective philosophy.  We helped Norma Jean Horan honor her and her husband’s dream of beautifying Hackley Park, forever, with their Donor Advised Fund.  Roger and Barbara Brink enabled the City of Muskegon to establish a fund that will enhance and maintain the Lakeshore Trail.  Chuck and Pat Johnson commissioned Matthew Amante to create the “Community” sculpture, the latest piece of public art to grace our downtown. 

Throughout the year, a team of seven of us, two Trustees and five staff, participated in an intensive Peer Action Learning Network on Diversity and Inclusion.  What we learned in this training has changed the way we see the world, and the work we do. It caused us to initiate changes to our policies and our physical environment to make the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts and the Foundation office, more welcoming and inclusive.

 The Foundation was involved in some downtown successes in 2011.  In addition to the opening of Alcoa Celebration Square and the dedication on May 19 of the Amante sculpture, we facilitated a grant of $125,000 from Consumers Energy to the Russell Block Market, a retail incubator program.  We also facilitated and provided necessary funding to place a group of Summer Youth workers downtown to beautify the streetscape and landscape throughout downtown.  We also organized the plan to remove snow from the sidewalks and streets downtown, (which we will use next winter, maybe).   

Finally, we started “moving” our real estate!  In the fall of 2011, we closed on the sale of one acre of the Morris Street lot to create the new Social Security building, opening in June 2012.  In December, we closed on the sale of the “grassy area on the corner of Shoreline and Third Street.”  Meanwhile, using a nice grant from Alcoa Howmet, we hired Chesapeake Group to do a redevelopment analysis of the Morris Street Lot to give us advice and a design for the 9 acres there.   The study will be presented in February 2012.



His Wide World of Sports Began Here

Written by Heidi Sytsema Wednesday, 22 February 2012 20:24

Last summer, Dan Bylsma - head coach of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins - was inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.  In his acceptance speech, which follows, he credited his success to the people & places that inspired him right here in our community.  

"It is a special honor and privilege for me to be inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.

Growing up, West Michigan was my Wide World of Sports -- from the back yard rink to L.C. Walker Arena I dreamed of playing college hockey. In the NHL I emulated the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman. 

From Ferrysburg Field, Sulka Field to Marsh Field, I hit in the bottom of the ninth attempting to score the game winning run many a time and wore number 23 in hopes of hitting like Kirk Gibson.

From Crockery Hills, Grand Haven to Chase Hamond Golf Courses I competed against the greatest golfers in the world .... at least in my mind.

I had many great memories growing up in my Wide World of Sports -- from teammates and competitors, to coaches and to competitions...culminating in winning the State championship in golf in '84 and the Baseball State Championship in '85 with the Western Michigan Christian High School Warrior golf and baseball teams.

My Wide World of Sports got bigger when I moved off to college to play hockey at Bowling Green State University for 4 years. Then I moved on to playing 12 years of professional hockey and coaching for the past 7 years.

Certainly there have been some highlights -- many with the brown and orange of BGSU, and climbing up the ranks of professional hockey. As a player I appeared in a Stanley Cup Final  and experienced a Game 7 loss. As a coach I enjoyed the victory of a Game 7 win for a Stanley Cup Championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins....

But as my Wide World of Sports has expanded I often look back on how it all started and realize how special West Michigan has been to me in shaping the person I am today.

From the best competition I have ever had - from my brothers, to Tony Fredirecee, Todd Richards, Tim Supee, and many others....

From the coaches and mentors - my father and mother, Mr. Kisasondi, Mr. Tardoni, Steve Fisher, the late Mr. Ter Haar, the late Mr. Hicks and Sam DeBoer.  The people I had the opportunity to grow up with, the coaches and mentors all made this a very special place for us to grow up in...

They gave me the opportunity to pursue a bigger Wide World of Sports, one in which I am not done yet...And if I get another opportunity to swipe a second Stanley Cup from the Red Wings, with no apologies I will!!!! 

Thank you very much!"

Who are you inspiring today?


Flash Mob for Pat

Written by cffmc Wednesday, 21 December 2011 21:12

Thanks to all who participated...
enjoy the video!


alt“I’ll try it for a year…”

Pat Johnson remembers that she was “rather surprised” when asked by Ted Operhall in 1980 if she would be interested in becoming the Foundation’s first full time Executive Director. “I said I would try it for a year and see if I liked it and they felt I was the person for the position.”

Nineteen years later, in 1999, hundreds of Muskegonites and dignitaries from around the state gathered at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts to pay tribute to Johnson as she retired.

State Senator Gerald VanWoerkom told the crowd Johnson had a “heartfelt concern for the citizens of the community.” U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra called her a “visionary leader,” and Dottie Johnson, former president of the Council of Michigan Foundations, called Johnson a “true Renaissance woman.”

But perhaps Muskegon businessman John Hilt best encapsulated her years of service saying: “There hasn’t been a major positive project in Muskegon in 19 years which hasn’t been impacted or led by Pat Johnson and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.”

Pat’s nineteen years were marked by a phenomenal increase in Foundation assets (from $4 million in 1980 to over $85 million in June 1999) as well as innovative, significant grants and projects that will benefit Muskegon forever. In 1982 Johnson convinced the Board to break through the back wall of the Frauenthal Theater into the former Bishop Furniture building to create a backstage, dressing rooms and rehearsal halls. Labor union members provided free labor for the renovation and the success of that project inspired Pat and the Trustees to raise money for a complete renovation of the former Bishop Furniture building, now named the Hilt Building in honor of the family who were the major benefactors to that project.

altPat Johnson was at the helm for the creation of Heritage Landing and the Paul C. Johnson Pavilion and in the mid ‘90s for the renovation and restoration of both the L.C. Walker Arena and the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts. In 1988 a Foundation Ambassadors group was started by 8 couples who funded the annual  dinner for three years. The Paul C. Johnson Foundation was created in 1989 with a $2 million gift as a supporting organization of the  Community Foundation. That same year the Oceana County Community Foundation became our affiliate, the first community  foundation affiliation in Michigan, creating a model that has been emulated statewide.

LEAD (Let Education Answer Dreams) ’98 began in 1990, when the  Foundation adopted the fifth grade class from Nelson School and promised every student college scholarships in 1998, the year they would graduate.

Shortly before her retirement the Foundation made its largest grant:  $1 million to the Grand Valley State University Lake Michigan Center,  cementing Johnson’s tenure as one marked with defining, exciting, projects which forever changed the footprint of the Port City.



The Gift of Inspiration Is No Small Matter

Written by cffmc Friday, 09 December 2011 19:52

Judy Hayner of the Muskegon Museum of Art shared the thoughts below at one of our recent events.  And while her message certainly related to the art museum, she did a great job of promoting the message of generosity and philanthropy!  Read on...  

By Judy Hayner

The gift of inspiration is no small matter.  Just look at yourselves and at each are here today because you believe in the gift of inspiration.  

The Muskegon Museum of Art is a gift of inspiration.  One hundred years ago, construction was on pace to complete a pioneer on the American art museum frontier, that being the Hackley Art Gallery, which, in 1912, was the first and only building in the United States erected purposely as an art museum in an American city of less than 30,000 inhabitants.

Isn’t that remarkable?  How did that happen?

Andrew Carnegie was a gift of inspiration…a gift of inspiration to Charles Hackley and to us.  Carnegie published in June of 1889 a short essay entitled The Gospel of Wealth...I recommend that you take the time to read it.

However, here, I would like to share with you a few excerpts from that essay, because I believe that herein lies the tale.

According to Carnegie:

The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth …

What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon which civilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few?…

There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of.  It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or finally, it can be administered by its possessors during their lives.

Carnegie goes on to discuss these three modes.  He says:

The first (of leaving estates to the children) is the most injudicious.  There are instances of millionaires’ sons unspoiled by wealth, who, being rich, still perform great services to the community.  Such are the very salt of the earth, but unfortunately, they are rare. …

Looking at the usual result of enormous sums conferred upon legatees, the thoughtful man must shortly say “I would as soon leave to my heirs a curse as the almighty dollar,” and admit to himself that it is not the welfare of the children but family pride which inspires these legacies.  

(Carnegie was a firm believer in estate taxes, by the way!)

Continuing with Carnegie:

As to the second mode, that of leaving wealth at death for public uses, it may be said that this is only a means for the disposal of wealth, provided a person is content to wait until he is dead before he becomes of much good in the world….

Carnegie goes on to say…

…the cases are not few in which the real object sought by the testator is not attained….and indeed…men who leave vast sums in this way may fairly be thought men who would not have left it at all had they been able to take it with them.

There remains then only one mode of using great fortunes…and that is…to consider all surplus revenues which come to one of hard work simply as trust funds, which the wealthy person is called upon to administer in the manner which is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community---persons of wealth becoming the mere trustee and agent for the greater good.  

Carnegie goes on to suggest…

…the best means of benefiting the community is to place within its reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise:  free libraries, parks and means of recreation, by which we are helped in body and mind; works of art, certain to give pleasure and improve the public taste; and public institutions of various kinds, which will improve the general condition of the people.

Sound familiar?  Many of us here in Muskegon think that Charles read that essay.  Charles, we like to think, made a list.  In an interview, Charles Hackley has been quoted as saying:

…a rich man to a great extent owes his fortune to the public. He makes money largely through the labor of his employees.....Moreover, I believe that it should be expended during the lifetime of the donor, so that he can see that his benefactions do not miscarry and are according to his intent....To a certain extent, I agree with Mr. Carnegie ....that it is a crime to die rich. 

Among the many things on Hackley’s list was an art museum.  However, the fates intervened, and in February 1905, before he could make this happen, Charles Hackley died.  However, he did not die without creating his own gift of inspiration.  Charles Hackley left to the Board of Education for Muskegon Public Schools an expendable trust fund of $150,000 to buy pictures of the best kind. 

Because of that gift, the Board of Education was inspired to build that which Charles might have done had he lived long enough…an art gallery in which they could exhibit pictures of the best kind…

To share with you a quote from a new book entitled Pictures of the Best Kind:  the First One Hundred Years on our history, the story of the Muskegon Museum of Art’s first century, researched and written by our own Marilyn Andersen, scheduled for publication June of 2012:  

Under clear summer skies on Friday, June 21, 1912, the Muskegon Board of Education formally ushered the city’s leaders, citizens, and guests through the newly completed Hackley Art Gallery’s large double doors.  As they gathered at two-thirty that afternoon, the glass roof over the Inaugural Exhibition admitted no shadow on the chosen paintings. 

The Muskegon Museum of Art is a gift of inspiration...Andrew Carnegie inspired Charles Hackley.  Charles Hackley inspired an entire community on so many fronts.   

We hope, as we begin our 100th year, that we inspire you.


The Power of Youth

Written by Janelle Mair Friday, 11 November 2011 20:03

Tuesday afternoon, our Board Room filled with 20 teenagers from nearly all Muskegon County schools, pouring over 62 teacher mini grants.  62!  For two and a half hours, students carefully considered each request.   

“Reading is important, but I don’t think we need to fund the prizes that go along with the program.”

“But prizes are why I spent so much time reading as a kid!”

“This band conductor wants to bring in professionals to provide sectional lessons for each instrument in the band.  Why can’t she teach them herself?”

“Most conductors specialize in one section like percussion or brass, and aren’t able to give the specialized instruction to the other sessions.  She will be supplementing her skills.  We do this in my band and it is so helpful!”

“Field trips were my favorite part of elementary school, why wouldn’t’ we fund it?”

“Although I think a visit to the Air Zoo is cool, it doesn’t really tie into the book they are reading, so it won’t be in context to the lesson.”

WOW!  These students were thoughtful and dedicated to making informed decisions.  They didn’t always agree, but voiced their dissenting opinions clearly and respectfully.  And, in the end, they approved funding for over $11,000, $250 at a time, in grants to our area schools.  These grants fund the “extras” that enhance a teacher’s lesson and a student’s experience.  Isn’t a lesson about magnets much easier to understand if you can touch a magnet while the teacher explains polar north?  As a budding artist, aren’t you more proud of your work if it is displayed in a carefully cut mat?  And certainly the concepts of recycling and energy transfer become clearer when food waste from the school cafeteria is composted and fed to a piglet, which will in turn feed students when the pig comes of age.

I hope these 20 students realize the positive impact they are having in our community. I hope our schools and our community are grateful for their efforts, and for the donations to the Youth Advisory Council fund that make teacher mini grants possible.  

And…I hope that Whitehall Middle School invites me to their pig roast in May.  



One in '21

Written by Heidi Sytsema Tuesday, 08 November 2011 19:30

One in ’21...becoming the healthiest county in Michigan in ten years...we do love an ambitious goal, don't we?  At the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, we’re joining the effort in a few ways.

Most of our staff has joined the 21,000 pound challenge.  We’re taking the stairs, walking in the L.C. at lunch, and trying to make good food choices.  (Though with nine birthday treats in six weeks, and leftovers from a few community receptions, our breakroom is a danger zone as we head into the holidays!)

Our board recently approved some exciting grants that promote dignity, health, and well-being for Muskegon County residents:

East Muskegon Little League will be building a No More Sidelines T-ball field at Sheldon Park that will allow kids of all abilities to get out and Play Ball!  

Pickle-ball equipment will soon be available for White Lake residents to check out and use.

Seniors at Tanglewood Park will be starting a greenhouse project, growing veggies to eat and enjoying the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

Families in poverty often rely on unlicensed caregivers to watch their children.  Free training is going to be provided to train these caregivers in CPR/First Aid and childhood development.

Drop boxes for disposing of controlled substances are going to be available daily in law enforcement offices, meaning families can get these medicines safely out of their homes.

A Personal Needs Pantry is planned through the Salvation Army, which will help people with limited resources have access to personal hygiene products.  

The Child Abuse Council will be creating and sharing an education video to increase internet safety knowledge among parents.  

Volunteer committees awarded all of these grants through a competitive process.  In addition, there are many, many donors who make grants from their own Funds to build a healthier Muskegon County every day!

Studies show that generous people are happier and live longer.  The people of Muskegon County are incredibly giving, and we work every day to build this culture of generosity and philanthropy.  Here’s to a happy and healthy Muskegon County!




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