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Nine Local Leaders Selected For 2022 Leadership Learning Lab

February 3, 2022 – After a brief program hiatus in 2021, the Community Foundation for Oceana County (CFOC) has selected nine local nonprofit leaders to participate in a regional Leadership Learning Lab. The fourth cohort is the largest to participate in the program, which began in 2018. 

The Leadership Learning Lab is a collaboration between the Frey Foundation, Rotary Charities and 10 northern Michigan community foundations and aligns with CFOC’s strategic efforts to support capacity building among local partners. “In today’s world, the conditions to be successful are constantly shifting. Changemakers need to lead with a new kind of discipline, courage, and skill. Passion for a cause is essential, but what we asked ourselves – what more can we do to help our nonprofit, government, and business leaders to sustain their work, increase their impact and work together for social change?” said Foundation CEO Tammy Carey. There will be two more cohorts selected in upcoming years to complete this new 3-year Leadership Learning Lab program commitment. The program was supported from our Administrative Fund as a leadership initiative.

The year-long program combines monthly learning sessions, small group learning pods, individual reflection and ongoing support across five lab sites throughout the region. Locally, the Lab connects 16 Oceana & Manistee County participants to practice adaptive leadership, develop time management skills and gain other technical tools, such as mission-driven storytelling and fund development.  Since 2018, 165 regional leaders have completed the program – with 65 new participants in the 2022 session. 

The 2022 Oceana County cohort includes Scott Beal, Tracy Blamer, Steve Bruch, Terri Demeter, Irma Hinojosa, Mark Kraus, Sarah Oleniczak, Kathleen Rash and Elizabeth Russell. 

Scott Beal is the Executive Director of the Hart-Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau. Before transitioning to the nonprofit sector, he worked in the hotel management industry for over twenty-five years. Beal served on numerous Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Bureau boards during this time. “I am fairly new to the nonprofit sector and feel this leadership program will help me learn more about nonprofits in general and ensure that I am helping to maximize each organization to provide a high level of service to its members and the community,” shared Beal. 

Tracy Blamer is the Director of Procurement at Peterson Farms. She is also an active board member for several organizations, including the Oceana County Department of Veterans Affairs, Shelby Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Oceana County Brownfield Authority. Blamer hopes to pursue a role in local government. “Through my employment and nonprofit service, I have the unique experience of working on community-based projects that directly affect my family and neighbors. Expanding my toolbox professionally strengthens my ability to impact my community,” Blamer said.   

Steve Bruch is the Economic/Community Projects Coordinator for Oceana County. He is a former business owner and has served on the Hart TIFA and Main Street boards and is active with the Oceana County Brownfield Authority. “One of the greatest challenges I will face is the ability to lead where there is no clear path, and to collaborate where conflicting agendas and personalities may exist,” Bruch said. “As I set out on this journey, I can’t think of a better time to learn more about oneself, and to further develop the skills listed as key components of this program.” 

Terri Demeter is the Advancement Coordinator/Finance Manager at the Fountain Hill Center for Counseling, previously serving as its interim Practice Manager. “Education is key to making a community successful, and so any opportunity that I have to improve my skills is valuable,” Demeter said. “I really believe working with other community members and across the region will provide a lifetime of connections. Together, we can continue to build our skills and help each other, our nonprofits, and businesses succeed.”  

Mark Kraus is the Community Liaison and Development Director for TrueNorth Community Services. He is also the treasurer of the Rotary Club of Fremont and the Hesperia Community Schools Board of Education. Kraus is also interested in economic development, participating as the Membership and Tourism Director of the Hesperia Area Chamber of Commerce. “While I do highly value experience, structured/formal education is extremely important for personal growth. Many groups that I am affiliated with need and deserve strong leadership,” said Kraus. “I plan to take the teachings and experiences I gain from the Leadership Learning Lab and move my community forward.”   

Irma Hinojosa serves as the Chairperson for both the Oceana Hispanic Center and the West Michigan Migrant Resource Council boards. She additionally serves on the Hart Public Schools Board of Education, the West Shore Educational School District Board, and the Educational Support Staff Negotiations Team at West Shore Community College. “As an active member of our community, I feel this Leadership Learning Lab will assist with my role on different boards,” said Hinojosa, “It will also give me the opportunity to share what I learn with other Hispanic folks in the community and encourage them to follow in leadership roles.”  

Sarah Oleniczak is a Deputy Health Officer at the District Health Department #10 and serves as the Regional Coordinator for the Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region. “I’ve missed out on networking and relationship building that happens authentically when you’re in the community – COVID-19 only added to that disconnect,” Oleniczak explains, having focused primarily on the pandemic response for the past two years. “In my role as Deputy Health Officer, participation in the Leadership Learning Lab provides an opportunity to bring back ideas, training, lessons learned back to our organizational leadership.” 

Kathleen Rash is the Library Director at the Hart Area Public Library, previously serving as its Assistant Director. Rash is excited to strengthen the relationship between her organization and other participants. “Collaboration between community organizations often leads to innovative and helpful programs that truly address community needs. Mission-driven storytelling clarifies organizational goals and fund development training can strengthen an organization’s financial position, skills I am currently working on,” shared Rash.    

Elizabeth Russell is the Secretary and Grant Writer for the Pentwater Historical Society. She is looking forward to connecting with other organizations throughout the region. “I am hopeful that the Lab will help me improve my understanding of and interactions with people and organizations involved in our fundraising, our expansion, and the improvements to the museum and its exhibits that will follow the expansion,” Russell said.  

The Community Foundation for Oceana County envisions an Oceana where everyone has access to resources to thrive. If you would like more information on the Leadership Learning Lab, call CEO Tammy Carey at 231-869-3377.