Growing Shared Investments: Recent Grant Spotlights

Together, we can make a more vibrant Oceana County! The Foundation keeps partners in the loop about emerging opportunities, critical needs and what’s happening in the community. Annually in the fall, we also survey nonprofits to collate their needs into a community wish list. We also share a grant catalog from our twice annual community grant rounds with our donor partners. Many advisor partners enjoy meeting those wishes & grant requests from their Funds. By pooling resources, the Foundation was able to raise our twice-yearly community grant cap up to $5,000 and allow our nonprofit partners to submit unique proposals in both grant rounds – significantly increasing impact.

  • Protection for Our First Responders (Henry and Dorothy Fischer Family Fund)

    Throughout the emergencies it faces, the Grant Township Fire Department approaches the unknown as a family. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure all our men and women come home,” Fire Chief Dan Yost explained. Fire Chief Yost is extending this philosophy throughout the county’s first responder community through the Department’s Fire Rehab Trailer project. The Fire Rehab Trailer is designed to protect the well-being of first responders by creating a portable space to rehydrate, rest, and receive medical attention if needed. The county gave the Grant Fire Department a trailer, launching the program. The Fire Rehab Trailer received a $4,000 grant award from the Foundation’s Henry & Dorothy Fischer Family Fund for refurbishment. The Fire Rehab Trailer was furnished with heating and cooling, making it an important place for first responders to temporarily regroup while out in the field. The Fischer Family grant also covered costs associated with a generator and lighting. Community donations provided seating, other equipment, beverages and snacks. The Department completed the trailer in 2022 and it was put to use during the landmark structure fire in downtown Hart in June, offering first responders needed support and safety.

    Supporting Pentwater Arts Council’s Sculpture Walk (Randall and Linda Wagner Family Fund + Janie Denman Legacy Fund)

    How do you spark even more creative expression in a town rich with culture, history and natural resources? The Pentwater Arts Council (PAC) knows the answer: through community engagement and placemaking. PAC is beginning its three-year-long Sculpture Walk Initiative in collaboration with the Pentwater Downtown Development Authority. In this project, five sculptures were placed along downtown Hancock Street. In preparation for its first summer, PAC’s Sculpture Initiative received a $6,500 grant supported by the Foundation’s Randall and Linda Wagner Family and the Janie Denman Legacy Funds. “The intent is not only a placemaking project to establish Pentwater as an art destination,” PAC secretary Judy Pazol said. Through the grant, PAC will be able to fund transportation for students to visit the installation and provide educational packets to the community. The award also supports sculpture installation costs and advertising. The project centers on Pentwater’s lake shore community. Visitors had the opportunity to vote for their favorite sculpture to win the ‘People’s Choice Award’ (pictured here). Popular installations can be sold to visitors or permanently placed within Pentwater. While currently slated as a three-year project, PAC and the Village of Pentwater have high hopes to expand the initiative.

    Investing in Water Safety & Preparedness (Friends of the Oceana County Sheriff Office Fund + Richard and Ryan Walsworth Memorial Fund)

    Oceana County has 27 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 65 inland lakes, many swamps, and miles of rivers and streams. In addition to rescue and/or recovery of a person, the dive team of the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) receives requests to dive for property or evidence used in an investigation. Through the Oceana Women Who Care and the Richard & Ryan Walsworth Memorial Fund, the Dive Team received over $23,000 to purchase a new specialized trailer, replacing an aged equipment van. Funding also paid for additional equipment and outfitting the trailer for efficient storage & organization for fast deployment in an emergency. The grant was facilitated through the Foundation’s Friends of the Oceana County Sheriff Office Fund, making it the largest public safety grant the Fund has ever awarded.

    Oceana Women Who Care is a giving circle that has become an essential part of our area’s philanthropic community. Recognizing that as a group they can give significantly to propel a project forward, the dive trailer project became a reality at the March 2022 meeting when it won the vote! The Walsworth Fund’s significant contribution completed the funding needs and provided an opportunity to thank responders for their special caring to their family.

    Another important program of the OCSO and supported by the Friend’s Fund is the annual Water Safety Days in Pentwater. While it is common to see the Sheriff’s Department patrolling the waterways, Lake Michigan can become dangerous to those unaware of water safety practices. Deputy Sheriff Tim Simon established this event to teach kids and their families the fundamentals of water safety. Since its creation, hundreds of children’s life jackets have been given away to participants. Safety Partners for 2022’s Water Safety Day included the Pentwater Police and Fire Department, Life EMS, Michigan DNR, Michigan State Police – Hart Post, and Safe Kids.

  • Students Helping Teachers through Teacher Mini-Grants (Oceana Youth Fund + donor advised funds)

    Annually in August, teachers have the opportunity to apply for teacher mini grants up to $250, a program run by the Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC). In 2022, the program provided 38 grants, nearly $13,000, to seven schools in Oceana County – nearly doubling the number of grants from 2021. In addition to support from the Oceana Youth Fund, the program significantly grew thanks to partnerships with several donor advised funds of the Foundation including Mrs. Mullen’s Closet, Little Point Sable Arts for Oceana, Ralph’s Kids, Nobles Family Medical Reserve Corps and the Mary Ann Peterson “Grandma Pete” Memorial Fund(s).

    These awards fund special project materials, curriculum expansion, equipment needs, special training, skill development, and enrichment activities. “Student choice is a powerful motivator. Honoring student voices in selecting new classroom library titles was an exciting and powerful experience,” shared a Hart Public Schools teacher who received funding to buy new books. Examples of 2022 awards include alternative flexible seating for students, new graphing calculators, translation assistant programs, microscopes, and even CPR training! The Teacher Mini-Grant program is a great way to thank our educators for their tremendous impact in Oceana County.

    School Safety & Knox Boxes (Oceana Youth FundFriends of the Oceana County Sheriff Office Fund)

    The rise of school-based violence is a complex issue, almost as complicated as how to empower and safeguard students against potential threats. In 2019, the Oceana County Sheriff’s Department recognized that preparing schools for emergency lockdowns was not enough, as it prevented public safety officials from being able to provide life-saving aid. The Sheriff’s Department and the Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) partnered to install Knox Boxes at every school in Oceana County. Through the Oceana Youth Fund and the Community Investment Fund, YAC awarded the Sheriff’s Department an initial grant of $3,000. The Knox Box project received a second grant of $2,098 from the Foundation’s Friends of Oceana County Sheriff’s Office Fund.

    While delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the Knox Boxes were installed throughout Oceana County’s school districts in the spring of 2022. Knox Boxes are small steel boxes installed outside buildings. The boxes house the building’s master key set and are locked 24/7. Emergency personnel can access the boxes through their agency’s serialized, unduplicatable Knox Box key. Before, emergency personnel faced the issue of breaking into the locked building or finding an available key. The Oceana County Sheriff’s Department and other emergency agencies plan to provide crisis training to school officials, incorporating the Knox Boxes into their response process. Every school district in Oceana County was committed to installing the Knox Boxes and continuing the conversation on how to maximize student safety. Read the full story on page 6 of our 2021 Annual Report.

  • Gene Davidson Engineering and Skilled Trades Scholarship

    The Gene Davidson Engineering and Skilled Trades Scholarship was established by the Pentwater Artisan Learning Center (PALC) and Gene’s wife, Barbara, in memory of a great engineer, friend, and artist. Gene and Barbara established PALC in 2002 to create a space for Oceana makers to connect and collaborate. He was a passionate wood- and metalworker, helping build the collaborative ‘Michigan: A Great Lake Love Affair’ sculpture adorning the outside of PALC Center, amongst a great many items built for friends, family and community spaces. Gene’s memorial scholarship celebrates the ingenuity of future artists and craftspeople – like Ali – and the great works they will create.

    Clancy Aerts Skilled Trades and Healthcare Scholarship

    Rita Aerts established the Clancy Aerts Skilled Trades and Healthcare Scholarship in memory of her husband and his long-lasting career in agriculture. After graduating from Hart High School, Clancy earned his Bachelor of Science in Dairy Manufacturing from Michigan State University. After serving in the military, he spent his career at the USDA’s dairy division before retiring as the Assistant Market Administrator, Federal Order 40. Outside of the office, Clancy was a loving father, volunteer EMT, dedicated Oceana County Fair President and leader throughout Hart. Rita established his memorial scholarship to support students sharing Clancy’s interests in skilled trades and healthcare, beginning with Carla Estrada-Navarrete, a future physician’s assistant.

  • Oceana College Access Network’s Middle School College & Career Exploration Initiative (Oceana College Access Sustainability Fund)

    Successfully run as a pilot program for Shelby Middle School students in 2021, this Middle School program expanded to all Oceana Schools in the Fall of 2022. The initiative is three pronged with specific goals:

    • 8th Grade Career Days – To engage students in career exploration opportunities guided by local community members that support academic rigor, knowledge, and skill development.
    • Campus Visits – To enable all Oceana 8th graders to have an opportunity to visit a college or training center campus to better understand what college life is and how they can fit in.
    • 9th grade orientation – Visioning and goal setting with 9th grade students for a positive start (from the importance of their GPA to receiving a class t-shirt) and making the most of their high school years towards a bright future.

    The initiative is coordinated by the Oceana CAN! (College Access Network), led by Coordinator Alyssa Merten and was funded in partnership with the Mrs. Mullen’s Closet Fund advisory committee. “We recognized that if we are going to set expectations and build a college-going culture in our schools, it is essential for students to have these experiences long before application time in their senior year. Starting young and providing an overview of post-secondary education options, including apprenticeships, skilled trades training, certificates, and degrees is important as students build out their unique educational pathways,” explained Merten. The Foundation acts as the fiscal partner for Oceana CAN!, receiving grants and contributions on behalf of the Network, and provides important leadership capabilities.

    Pentwater Police Department Mobile Crisis Tech Support Grant (Urgent Needs Fund)

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s mental health crisis was compounded by the effects of isolation and reduced access to medical care. The Pentwater Police Department saw the availability of telehealth as an opportunity to better serve individuals facing mental health and substance abuse concerns. Through the Foundation’s Urgent Needs Fund, the Pentwater Police Department received a $2,000 grant to purchase video conferencing equipment for officers in the field. In partnership with West Michigan Community Mental Health (WMCMH), members of Oceana’s Mobile Crisis Team will be able to connect individuals to trained WMCMH professionals for immediate emergency consultation. WMCMH matched the Urgent Needs Fund award, bringing the project’s total support to $4,000.

    The grants supplied eight local emergency agencies with iPads to use when answering mental health crises. During the video conference, WMCMH staff meet with individuals to conduct a risk assessment, list available resources, and develop a safety and crisis plan. In the past, the Mobile Crisis Team was able to communicate with mental health professionals via phone calls. Integrating face-to-face communication with video conferencing creates a further sense of personalization, as patients can see the clinician. The Mobile Crisis Team serves residents of all ages across Oceana, Mason, and Lake Counties.

  • Creating a Place Where People Want to Live, Work & Play (Shelby Township Community Park Fund)

    In 2020, a 35-acre parcel was gifted to Shelby Township for a comprehensive $5.2 million community park. The land is located approximately two miles northwest of the Village of Shelby, on the Hart-Montague Trail. To date, the project has secured gifts and grants totaling more than half of the funds needed for construction. The Foundation, which is the fiscal sponsor for the capital campaign, holds those funds. The Township broke ground in September 2022 so that the construction work can proceed on a parallel path with fundraising. They hope to finish fundraising by the end of 2023 and complete the park construction by 2025.

    When asked to establish the Shelby Township Community Park Project Fund, our Board of Trustees took a moment to reflect on what the Park would mean. The Park is at the center of the County and along the State of Michigan’s first paved rail trail. The Community Park invites something new and unexpected to a community with unique resources like Lake Michigan, Sand Dunes, inland lakes and nature trails. It will be Oceana County’s first large multi-sport recreational park. It will have softball, soccer, basketball, pickleball, and playgrounds for different age groups. The park will also have a walking trail, shelters, and an amphitheater. It combines so many interests into a single destination – a “shared backyard” for everyone. When looking to jumpstart Oceana’s economic future, the answer is to invest – in our towns, our residents, and what they believe in and enjoy: West Michigan’s natural beauty; the spirit of our towns; our diversity and the inclusion of all residents. For future generations, the Community Park will show exactly what we believe about this place – that we are a community worth investing in.

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