An interview with Carla Roberts
Fremont Area Community Foundation is perhaps most well-known for its grantmaking programs and supporting local nonprofit organizations. Supporting economic development, small business growth, and entrepreneurship has also been a longstanding focus for the organization but often looks different from traditional grantmaking due to a variety of restrictions that all community foundations must navigate.
With all sectors feeling the impact of COVID-19, Carla Roberts, president and CEO, offered some insight into the Community Foundation’s pandemic response and its continuing commitment to local businesses.
How does supporting local businesses fit within the mission of the Community Foundation?
We believe small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. We love our business community, buy local whenever we can, and we encourage our grantees to do the same. This support for small business and entrepreneurs goes back to our earliest days. Several people have told us over the years that they got their start because Bessie Slautterback, the organization’s first executive, gave them a $5,000 loan to start a business.
Of course, we live in different times now, with significant IRS restrictions on how a community foundation can engage with local businesses. We can only award grants to organizations with a charitable status, such as 501c3 nonprofit organizations. That is why we work through intermediaries—such as Northern Initiatives and The Right Place—that have a charitable status and mission to support local business. The Right Place is a service organization and vital partner to support manufacturing, agricultural businesses, tourism, and entrepreneurship in Newaygo County. Northern Initiatives is a community development financial institution (CDFI) with the capability to provide financial services to businesses that do not qualify for conventional loans. In 2015, we established a $250,000 loan pool with Northern Initiatives to ensure that local businesses have the working capital to build and sustain their businesses.
The COVID-19 crisis has obviously had a large impact on our entire region, including local businesses. How did the Community Foundation initially respond to the need and what were the considerations for supporting the business community?
When the crisis hit, we were inundated by the needs from all sectors. We had to quickly deploy our staff in new ways, setting most up to work remotely. Within one week we had created the Community Response Fund and a new quick-response grant application and process to deploy grants from the fund. Of necessity, our first priority was to distribute emergency relief funds for food, shelter, and basic needs as demand quickly escalated alongside job losses.
At the same time, we knew small businesses and entrepreneurs were hurting and began to explore possibilities for supporting them in new ways. We encouraged nonprofits and businesses to take advantage of state and federal programs and we set up a technical assistance team of local experts to provide guidance to navigate those resources. The team included Dan Wheat to work with nonprofits, Don Farmer to work with businesses of 50 employees or fewer, and Julie Burrell to work with larger businesses. Those resources are still in place for anyone who needs assistance. More information can be found at bit.ly/FACF-business.
We also began to develop a strategy to help small businesses by leveraging Community Foundation assets to support low-interest loans. It took some time to find a partner—as many local banking partners are inundated with processing federal programs—but we are very close to announcing a program to assist local businesses as we enter our county’s intermediate recovery phase.
Why wasn’t the Community Foundation able to award immediate needs grants or use other parts of its endowment to directly support small businesses?
The primary reason is that it is difficult to establish a “charitable class” which is required by the IRS. But even without those restrictions, we would not have had the available dollars in our grantmaking budget. While the Community Foundation and its affiliates award nearly $9 million in grants each year, our trustees only direct about $5 million of that amount. The other grant funds are designated for specific areas or are otherwise restricted in their use. We estimated that the need in the small business community would likely reach $2-3 million. Since we had already deferred significant resources to immediate basic needs such as food assistance, there were simply not sufficient grant funds to address the emerging needs anticipated during the recovery period for both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.
Making grants to small businesses from our endowed assets would not only conflict with IRS funding restrictions but would also endanger the long-term power of our endowment. Our trustees have the responsibility to ensure that the endowment remains intact and keeps pace with inflation. To ensure this, we have a spending policy to limit the dollar amounts expended on an annual basis for both grants and operations. Along with stock market fluctuations, tapping into the endowment could impact and reduce our grantmaking abilities for years to come. Our community will need us well beyond the immediate crisis and we need to ensure the Community Foundation is viable for the recovery period and beyond.
Endowment ensures we will be here for the community for good, forever. A great example of the power of endowment is the Harry Williams Fund that was started during the Great Depression. That $5,000 fund has grown to over $9 million in assets and has given out more than $9 million over the life of the fund. Those were troubled times and it would have been easy to spend the funds for immediate needs, but the donor chose to endow them to provide for the present and the future.
What are your next steps for supporting the business community?
We are putting in place some financial programs through intermediaries that will offer low-interest loans on very favorable terms. In essence, we are standing behind the small business community and using the Community Foundation’s assets as a kind of collective bargaining chip to leverage the support we believe local businesses will need—not just for the intermediate recovery period but probably for much longer. We will be announcing details about this program as soon as they are finalized. Stay tuned!
I wanted to thank Lola Harmon Ramsey for speaking on behalf of the 94 to 98% white population in Newaygo County that she mentioned in her Near North Now piece.
Racism isn’t spoken about in our county because, well, we don’t have a problem, right? There is no problem because we don’t have a big “minority” community, right?
When and how can our communities within our county have an open and honest discussion about diversity, racism and social justice? Racism in Michigan does not live only in our urban areas that have significant numbers of black families. Racism and it’s tragic effects have been occurring since Native Indigenous people were forcefully marched east of the Mississippi, or wiped out through genocide.
Silence does not necessarily mean all is well here. It may mean we don’t even know or comprehend what our Black, Asian, Hispanic, East Indian, Native Indigenous or community members of diverse non-white ethnicities do experience here.
It is up to each of us from the white community to deeply reflect on our own attitudes and prejudices. It is also our responsibility to speak up against fear, racism and ignorance and not wait for people of color in our community to speak up first. Lola’s honesty is the mirror for us all. Thank YOU, Lola, for speaking up.
I call upon our civic, church, business, medical, mental health, social service and school leadership, perhaps with support from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, to help the citizens of our county come together in understanding and exposing both our overt and covert racism. Help us create a community where diversity and social justice are both nurtured, and dealt with honestly.
By Lola Harmon-Ramsey
Ms. H-R has written for N3 when she finds the time and gives in to our constant badgering for more of her writings.
This is a post from her social media page we found to be a thoughtful and compelling piece of writing and asked her if we might share it with our readers. After a smidge of the aforementioned badgering she agreed. We hope you find it as candid and heartfelt as we did.
What to say when everyone has said it all? Honestly, I don’t think I’ve earned the right to share my opinion on race or what’s going on. I know I am the epitome of privilege. I wish more of you knew that too.
What I can tell you is that the community I live in is 94.8% white according to the 2000 census. Maybe that isn’t exactly correct today, but I would venture it’s still pretty close. In all actuality, I would say the city I reside in, Fremont, is more like 98% white because people of color are rare here.
Another thing I can tell you is that I am a huge failure at standing up for racism. Just a few months ago I was at a party that included a confederate flag on the wall and a lot of very disgusting racist “jokes” and language that have been haunting me every week and day since, because I wanted to say something, but I was too afraid to speak up and say how offended I was by those words that were freely shared. I felt like I would be chastised for saying different. We have turned politics into a shouting match and I knew I would lose, so I was too weak to voice my stance. I regret that, but I can’t take it back.
I’m switching my stance now and I don’t care if you are offended if I call out your racism that you openly show. I think it’s time.
I have failed miserably at addressing these issues that aren’t always in the forefront and honestly, isn’t that the privilege showing? I didn’t even have to think about doing something until I wanted to address it. Nobody in my life has gone to jail or been harmed by breathing, running, anything.
I’d also like to remind everyone sharing Martin Luther King and his peaceful protests that you deem “better” than whatever has happened this past weekend, MLK was murdered for his work. He was a hated man and segregation still exists in many communities although it is not defined as such. Minorities still get the short end of the stick.
By Carol Mills, Executive Director, Newaygo County Mental Health
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. February is American Heart Month, March is National Kidney Month. There are some awareness issues on the list that I have never heard of. Did you know that World Sleep Day is March 13? That World Hand Hygiene Day is May 5? September also has many awareness days, including Healthy Aging, Food Safety, Pain Awareness, amongst others. As I read through the months, and the lists of awareness issues, I realized that we are used to having a specific month as a time of awareness for many issues and causes.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. During the month of May, we at Newaygo CMH have published several articles on coping with COVID, and other mental health issues that affect the Newaygo County Community. We hope that these articles have provided information and resources about topics that are important to our everyday lives.
Having designated months that commemorate and educate the public about health and social issues is important. These messages serve to remind us that we need to always be aware of health issues that can impact ourselves and our families. These are issues we face 24/7, 365 days a year. Mental Health and Mental Illness doesn’t take a holiday come June. We work every day to ensure that people are able to receive the services they need. Overcoming the stigma of seeking mental health services is a challenge for mental health professionals. Mental Health has come a long way in the past 50 years, but the journey isn’t over. Helping people to understand that seeking assistance with issues isn’t a weakness, or a deficit – it is a strength to understand that we can’t do everything alone. Sometimes we need help and guidance. Newaygo CMH is your public mental health center serving residents of Newaygo County. We provide supports to both children and adults that have mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities.
COVID has taught us many lessons, and allowed us to see both the good in people, and the struggles of living in a judgmental society of social media and misinformation. The truth, which always seemed so simple before, is now evasive and hard to find. Our world, which had already changed over the last 20 years due to the surge of electronic information, was rocked again with COVID. So many changes in such a short period of time. What will our new normal be? Change is hard for many people – and this change has been extremely difficult to comprehend and accept. It will forever change how we think about crowds and public events. Shaking hands with strangers. Hugging friends. Family reunions. Class reunions. Concerts. What will they look like? No one knows at this point what the future will look like – only that it will be different.
For those who are struggling to cope, please seek help. There are amazing professionals who can help you find resources and assistance. We are all in this together – please do not be afraid to reach out.
Every day is Mental Health awareness day. Please take care of yourself and your family – and let us know if we can help. Please call 231-689-7330 for assistance. We are available 24/7 for crisis and emergencies.
Preventing the Loss of a Loved One
By Sue Singelyn, Case manager/Supports coordinator at Newaygo County Mental Health
May is National Mental Health Month and we asked the folks from Newaygo County Mental Health to provide us with a series of articles to help promote awareness of the resources available for those seeking help. In this sixth installment Sue Singelyn speaks to being aware of suicidal signs in those around us.
One of the things I love most about living in Newaygo County is the casual exchanges with other people at the shops, post office, veterinarian, and passersby, usually talking about the weather. Michiganders are so friendly and caring! Sadly, the Coronavirus has changed some of these pleasantries into “seemingly small” losses. Over time, these losses can accumulate, adding up to increased depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, guilt, sadness and often increased thoughts of suicide. Our staff at CMH are trained and on high alert to look for suicidal signs and changes in our clients, but we can only monitor those who come in or call for support, leaving some gaps. Our staff are deeply concerned about safety, not only for our clients, but for those residing in the community as a whole. We can all help by being engaged, on high alert, and looking out for one another to fill the gaps with the hope and expectation of keeping everyone in our community safe.
Three months into the pandemic there are no solid statistics on increased suicide rates. However, half of Americans polled have said the pandemic is harming their mental health. One emergency hotline for people in emotional distress recorded a 1000% increase in April alone. We can extrapolate these and other trends to equal increased suicide rates, however, we can take steps to monitor our loved ones and reach out with concerns.
It can be difficult to determine if someone is serious about committing suicide. For example, people are posting on social media about intentions of committing suicide, which can be for many reasons that may or may not be sincere. However, every threat should be taken seriously and reaching out to professionals who can help is critical to finding answers and keeping everyone safe. It is a myth that asking someone if they are having suicidal thoughts will increase their chances of harming themselves. Asking shows you care and it is one of the most important things we can do when we are concerned about someone, both for them and for ourselves.
Most people who die by suicide tell someone they plan to hurt themselves, however, there are many signs that are more subtle. Following are listed some questions you can ask that might be “seemingly small” that, if recognized with action taken, can prevent loss of a loved one or a community member. Suicide is preventable. You do not have to know how serious a person is about suicide in order to help, just reach out and ask. Certainly if you recognize any of these signs in yourself, it’s very important that you reach out to us as well.
Through these difficult times, one thing that remains stable is the enduring caring and concern we have for each other, our friends, family and community. Caring for ourselves and others is a powerful gift we can give each other through these difficult times. Please contact us, we are here to help.
As a reminder, our crisis line is available for anyone and can be accessed 24/7 by calling 231-689-7580; Newaygo County Mental Health is ready to care for you.
By Mike Pumford
Forty two years as a proud citizen of Newaygo, twenty four years as a Teacher/Coach, six years as Newaygo’s State Representative and a constant prideful promoter of my town, our town. I NEVER thought I would feel the community shame I felt this past Thursday on May 21st.
Such a disappointment to turn on the news and see interviews with event organizers from Kalamazoo and multiple interviews from event participants from all over the state. What I didn’t see or hear was anything from local leaders taking credit for organizing the event. WHY? WHO ARE YOU? DO YOU EVEN EXIST?
It’s hard for me to believe that any local leader would allow an outside group to use our Community. A community that canceled its own locally scheduled events due to COVID-19.
Spending the last twenty four hours texting and talking, via phone, with like-minded community members, I am (we are) concerned that this spectacle that occurred on Thursday has done a considerable amount of damage to Newaygo.
Will tourists supporting our State’s Coronavirus mandates (the vast majority of Michigan’s citizens currently support these mandates) be less inclined to support a community that appears to place itself above the law?
Will local consumers be less inclined to be supportive of the businesses that participated in encouraging hundreds of outside non-masked and non-social distancing individuals into our community, increasing the possible spread of the Coronavirus? Are our community’s CHILDREN, OUR SENIOR CITIZENS, and our most VULNERABLE safer today because our community leaders allowed this event to take place? I think not!
To my former government students. Remember what we learned about FREEDOM:
“One mans’ freedom to swing his fist ends where another man’s nose begins”
this can also be stated:
“One man’s Freedom not to wear a mask and not to social distance ends with the possibility of infecting another person”
Newaygo-we are better than this! Be wise-stay safe.
(the joy of ordinary things)
by Tim McGrath
“I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow-movin’ trains, and rain…”
from I Love by Tom T. Hall
They used to be in dark, smoky rooms. The places I was warned about: bars, pool halls, back rooms of bowling alleys. No place for respectable kids to frequent. Lord knows what goes on there, we’ve heard the stories.
The temptation of the silver ball was just too great. I’d heard the sounds coming from the little room at the back of the bowling alley before, next to the bar. The forbidden zone. The place I had to go. It was as if an invisible hand was pushing me on, luring me in. The dark just added to the allure of the whole thing.
Stepping through the doorway, bowling bag in hand, I found myself in a dark world, save for the mesmerizing light coming from the machines standing side-by-side. Glowing tips of cigarettes cast a soft halo of orange light on the players’ faces who were hanging on grimly to the fronts of the machines. Fingers pounding flippers, jiggling, shoving the machines, swearing, lots of swearing. As my eyes adjusted to the dark and days-old smoke, I drifted to the table closest to me and leaned in.
“Hey, doofus, don’t bump the machine, or you’ll get a clip over the ear hole, stand back! I’ve just about got another free game!” the guy playing barked at me. Backing off, I watched, mesmerized, as the silver ball bounced, raced, and slunk around the table always threatening to drop down the middle or side channels. The flashing lights and musical ding, ding, ding of the score reels rolling over and over held me in their spell. I jumped as a loud THWACK shook the machine. “Hot dang, got it!” the player shouted. “That makes three, got to get me some more.”
“Come on, Danny, give it up, we’ve got to go. Let that kid play your games. You’ve been at it for an hour.” Danny stared at me with a doubtful eye. Clearly, he was concerned I was going to be a big disappointment.
“OK, kid, here you go, don’t blow it!” Danny said.
He handed over a living thing. Buckaroo’s back glass and playfield were garishly lit with smiling horses and pretty girls in skimpy, too-tight blouses. Come on kid, try it, just once, you’ll love it, pretty girl seemed to say. How could I possibly say no to that? Imitating Danny, I stood with feet firmly planted, ready for action at the front of the machine. Fingers on the flipper buttons, feeling the warmth pulsing through my sweaty palms. Giving the flippers a try, I pulled back the plunger and let the ball fly.
I had no idea what I was doing, of course. Just to watch, hear, and feel the ball bouncing around the playfield, racking up points on the mechanical reels, though, was enough. Trying in vain to smack the ball back up into the playfield proved to be difficult. It moved too fast, and my flipper skills were nonexistent. Just like that, all the free games Danny had racked up slipped away. Didn’t make one bit of difference, I was hooked.
Another guy came up and slapped a quarter down on the machine. “Move, kid, let me show you how it’s done.”
Picking up my bowling bag, I slouched around the perimeter of the dark room. Games with names like King of Diamonds, Sing Along, Flipper Parade, Lady Luck, Four Square. All of them reaching out with an invitation to a secret and mysterious place. Some of them a little naughty, all promising good times with a wink and a nod.
A good chunk of my youth from junior high through college was spent in that room, and others like it. They became a go-to place with my chums, but also a retreat of sorts when I just needed to get away from whatever kid angst I was suffering at the time. If there was something troubling me, being in that space and banging away on those machines helped me sort things out. Loads of quarters were fed into them, and I suppose it was some kind of primitive therapy. Plus, it was just plain fun. What a kick it was to win a free game. When the satisfying THWACK of the machine paying out a freebie came it was all I could do not to shout out, “Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses, the kid just won another!”
I’ll tell you, my friends, those were the days. Playing pinball in those slightly seedy places was a delight; an ordinary thing teenage boys did back then. It probably consumed too much time and hard-earned cash. But, no matter.
The siren song still calls. When I see a machine, I have to stop and check it out. If it’s a machine from those halcyon days, and I have a couple quarters, I step right up and have a go. Instinctively, I assume the stance, flipper fingers itchy just waiting to do a trap and shoot. Brings me right back to that joyful, carefree time.
Lately, I’ve heard about and seen other people picking up the forgotten things; stuff done in a dimly remembered past. Baking, cooking from scratch, sewing and knitting, puzzle making, playing board games, even darning socks. I’ve enjoyed posts on social media of people thrilled with the sound of spring peepers and birds. The lovely photos of beautiful spring wildflowers, trying to learn their names. Hiking on our beautiful North Country Trail, delighting in the discovery of some of its secret places. Fishing, the trials of gardening, raising chicks, throwing a ball.
Finding joy in ordinary things.
From our friends at Newaygo County Emergency Services
Newaygo County is a part of the MI-Safe Start Region 2 – Grand Rapids Region. We currently have 50 Lab Confirmed Positive COVID-19 cases in Newaygo County. This is almost double our cases in a two week period (since May 1st). As we proceed forward we must reopen gradually and safely. By proceeding incrementally, we can evaluate the effects of our decisions. Per the Health Department, if cases start to surge, we may need to tighten up again. If the disease is contained, we can keep relaxing. The MI Safe Start Plan will re-engage our economy carefully and deliberately to avoid a second wave of infections.
In order to safely re-engage, we are asking all businesses to help keep our community safe by following the District Health Department 10 public health guidance to ensure the health and safety of employees, customers, and visitors. This guidance is designed to assist community and business sectors in developing plans for reopening. Businesses, organizations, and communities are expected to participate in the control of COVID-19 in partnership with local public health departments – this may involve providing testing, contact tracing, and issuing their own quarantine process immediately, rather than waiting for local public health guidance. When sectors begin to reopen, their ability to procure necessary supplies, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, hand washing stations, gloves, etc., must be considered.
Please keep in mind, under State Executive Directive 2020-6 and Executive Order 2020-91, the State of Michigan has charged each state department and agency with the responsibility for enforcing workplace health and safety standards and monitoring workplaces for compliance with rules adopted and if necessary bringing enforcement actions to ensure compliance. We strongly encourage all businesses and organizations to follow all guidance and timelines set for our Region. In addition, we encourage consultation with your liability insurance carriers for specific reopening plans developed. Businesses and organizations not adhering to the guidance in place face the risk of fines, revoking of licenses, and additional enforcement actions from the State of Michigan. We do not want to see that occur within our Community.
Together, and with your help, we will move forward. If you have any questions or need any additional guidance, please do not hesitate to contact the Emergency Services Department or District Health Department 10.
Bryan Berghoef, pastor and congressional candidate, invites community members to a Virtual Rural Town Hall on Wednesday, May 27 at 7pm. Berghoef is running for Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District which includes Newaygo and surrounding counties. The town hall can be joined via the internet or by phone. See the information below on how to access.
“Like most community members that I hear from, I am disturbed by the disruption and turmoil spreading across our nation. But I see this as an opportunity to take a turn toward compassion, decency, and strengthening our democracy together.”
The Rural Virtual Town Hall will give community members a chance to meet, hear and ask questions of Bryan Berghoef at this time of limited in-person gatherings.
“I want to hear from the citizens of Newaygo and the other surrounding rural counties, and help address the concerns and issues that you have. From the challenges of farming and food distribution, to the lack of job opportunities, to limited internet capabilities, to accessing affordable health care and prescription drugs, I want to know what you need from your representative to help create a better life for you and your family.”
Bryan was born in Grand Rapids, raised in Coopersville and Sparta, and spent summers at camp in Stony Lake. Currently the pastor at Holland United Church of Christ, Bryan graduated from the University of Michigan and completed his Master of Divinity degree at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has pastored churches in Traverse City and Washington DC. Pastor Berghoef is raising four children with his wife Christy in Holland, Michigan.
Bryan is also a pub theologian and author of the book, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God. Bryan has been facilitating weekly pub conversations for the past ten years. “Sitting at the same table, listening to people across the political spectrum, allows us to discover the common humanity in each other, and—despite some real differences—discover our shared values.” You can learn more about his background and policies at https://www.bryanberghoef.com/.
“I’m running for Congress because I continually witness how many people's voices are not heard and their needs not addressed. The dignity of a person should not be determined by the amount of money in their wallet. Big money influencing our politics is one of the greatest corruptors of democracy, influencing nearly every issue and contributing to our growing wealth inequality. I am not taking Corporate PAC money so I will not be bound to corporate interests once elected.”
Berghoef states that among his priorities as a Congressional Representative are to fix broken systems that can provide economic opportunities for all, restore democracy through working across the political aisle, and addressing security issues of violence, environment, and immigration governance.
To meet Bryan Berghoef and ask him questions, come to his Virtual Rural Town Hall on Wednesday, May 27 at 7pm. To join by phone dial 1-312-626-6799, and enter the PIN 81204777467# when asked. To join by internet, go to this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81204777467
Bikers, Veterans, Active Military and Concerned Citizens;
To honor all those who died during and after their efforts, in all the wars, to protect and defend our nation. We are Rolling to Remember.
For 32 years every Memorial Day, action has been taken to raise awareness for the critical issues facing our nation’s veterans. In 2020, we will continue the tradition through the “Rolling to Remember Challenge”.
As always, the health and safety of all riders and the veteran community is our top priority. Due to the federal and state restrictions on public gatherings and the guidance of public health officials amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Rolling to Remember” motorcycle demonstration will not take place in Washington, D.C. Instead, AMVETS National is asking each of you to ride 22 miles on Sunday, May 24, 2020 in your local communities.
Join me and my brothers Sunday May 24th in a salute to those men and women responsible for the freedoms we share. AMVETS Riders Chapter 4250 will be making the rounds of the local cemeteries in commemoration of “RIDE TO REMEMBER”, with a proper salute to all those who died in our defense as well as those who have taken their lives each day, due to the stresses of battle fatigue.
We ask that you wear PPE and keep safe distance from each other. Motorcycles will lead the procession and other vehicles to follow. Meet us at the VFW/AMVETS Hall, 45 Gene Furgason Ln, in Newaygo, MI, Sunday May 24 at 10am. Please email us with your intentions at, email@example.com, use “Ride To Remember, Newaygo” in the subject line.
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