Community foundation launches matching grant program for lighthouses

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:07 AM

“Our Board of Trustees wanted to make a gift that would not only honor the past, but also recognize the volunteer and philanthropic spirit of our community, and support a project that was an iconic symbol of our community,” explained Ann Tabor, president of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

Forty years ago, 12 people from the Tri-Cities community took a great risk, putting their faith and their energy behind an idea that would not come to fruition for many years. The group, led by community visionary, E.V. “Vin” Erickson, saw the potential to provide the community with a little known vehicle for charitable giving — an endowment — that would strengthen the community for future generations. It was a simple concept: You give today and the earnings from your gift will be used to support the needs of tomorrow.

What began with a dream and an investment of $1,200 ($100 from each of the founders) has grown to become one of the leading community foundations in Michigan, with assets of $55 million.

Today, more than 3,000 people give to the local foundation annually, making it a leader in per-capita giving among the nation’s community foundations. 

“If we had told people back in 1971 that we’d be a $55 million foundation 40 years later, they never would have believed it,” said Dorothy Johnson, one of the original founders and the third president of the GHACF Board.

In its first year as a community grantmaker, GHACF awarded a total of $1,000 in grants. Today, more than $3 million is awarded annually in grants and scholarships. Over the past 40 years, grants totaling $40 million have gone back out to the community.

“We never could have imagined the impact of our community grants,” said John Carlyle, another member of the founding board. “Everywhere you go in the Tri-Cities, you can see the projects and programs that were started with a grant from the community foundation.”

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