Upon graduation from Traverse City Senior High (now Traverse City Central High School), I was very fortunate to be awarded a scholarship that covered most of my undergraduate and medical school education expenses.
This scholarship was funded due to the generosity of a local family who established an endowment to assist students in their pursuit of further post-secondary studies. I was forever grateful to this family and knew that when I was able, I, too, wanted to “give back” to my community.
I first heard about the Community Foundation through a patient of mine who at the time also happened to be a board director. My interest was piqued as he described the impact the Community Foundation could have and the ways in which it was helping local organizations thrive in the present and future.
Around the time of my retirement from medicine, I decided to grab a cup of coffee with Phil Ellis, the former foundation executive director. His enthusiasm about the Community Foundation was contagious and convinced me that I needed to be a part of the work they were doing. Thus began my relationship with the foundation!
Several key ideas that stand out to me about the Community Foundation model: First, it helps people make long-term investments in causes that matter to them. Second, it looks for opportunities to make our communities more vibrant and healthy. Lastly, it grants funds every year to organizations that are making life better in the region.
When one combines this model with the fact that the Community Foundation supports a five-county area (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties) with local leadership, it creates a lasting impact over a broad region. We have active board with representation from each county, and board members understand what is important and needed within their respective counties.
For the past several years I have also been on the board, and volunteered with Michael’s Place, an organization that provides grief support for families after the loss of a family member. I have seen firsthand how support from the Community Foundation helps the Robin’s Nest program at Michael’s Place, allowing children to have weekly support and monthly adventures with their families.
The work that the Community Foundation does often is transformative and happens in “real time.”
Whether it is helping with the completion of a small park in Lake Ann or a major project, such as offering pre-school programs for all the children in Central Lake, these projects change and improve people’s lives.
The work of the Community Foundation is made possible through support of many donors, volunteers and community nonprofits.
I am extremely proud and honored to be part of this regional organization.
About the author: Bill Smith was raised in Traverse City and graduated from Traverse City Central High School. After graduation from medical school, he returned to Traverse City to practice family medicine. Now retired, he and his wife Mary enjoy recreation and the arts in northern Michigan.
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