Investing in today and tomorrow: The Morey Foundation's enduring commitment to Isabella County

Chances are, you’ve seen the Morey name on local buildings, schools, hospitals, and sports centers around Mt. Pleasant. The Morey Foundation began in 1997 after the passing of Norval Morey, the father of current Morey Foundation president, Lon Morey. Following his death, Norval left the estate and specific instructions to his family to carry on his legacy within Isabella County. 

“The main focus of our Foundation is to support the youth, education, and the elderly. If you look back at all the things the Foundation has been involved in, it touches one of those three areas each time,” Lon Morey says. “Our main focus is to improve our community.”

One of The Morey Foundation’s first large projects was the Morey Cancer Center at the McLaren Central Michigan hospital in 2005, followed by the Lon Morey Family Hospice House Fund supporting the Woodland Hospice House, and the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum.

Courtesy of The Morey Foundation

Morey is also especially proud of the Foundation’s involvement with a local recreation center, Morey Courts. 

“Probably the thing that’s made the biggest impact in the Mt. Pleasant area has been Morey Courts,” Morey says. “We were the largest donor there, and have been closely involved with that since day one. When you look at all the people from around the state that come into that facility— the impact it has on our community—it brings hundreds of people into the community.”

Since its inception in the late nineties, the organization has had its hand in many buildings and causes, investing both their dollars and their hearts into the community. 

“The number-one theme for us is community—how do we continue to do things that impact a lot of people, and have a broad reach. Our focus is not narrow by any means,” says Erik Spindler, executive administrator at The Morey Foundation. “I always tell people, ‘Most people are in the business of making a dollar; we’re in the business of giving a dollar away.’ It can arguably be harder in some cases, but when you have passion behind it and love what you do, it is rewarding to see the impact.”

Carrying on a family member's legacy can be a heavy task but also a gratifying one, are sentiments both Spindler and Morey share, noting Norval did get to see a few milestones happen while he was still alive, too. One of those focused around the heart of the organization’s drive to better and further local education offerings. 

“One of the last things my father did before he passed was open up the Morey Charter School, which has been operating off and on since 1997,” Morey says. “More recently, we opened up a high school, Morey FlexTech, in our sixth year of operation. Our most recent thing is the gymnastics center that we started talking about two or three years ago.”

Morey FlexTech utilizes project-based learning for students, rather than traditional educational techniques.

“The program that they’re running there is really having a big impact on these students,” Morey says. “A lot of people don’t understand what the school’s about. They either think it’s a school for misfits or a technical school, but it’s neither of those. It’s a traditional high school, but teaches with projects rather than traditionally teaching memorization. Not all kids learn the same way, and this is a great option for those kids who learn best this way.”

Outside of schoolwork, The Morey Foundation is gearing up to focus on play, too. They announced in April that the Isabella Community Sportsplex, home to the Martin Ice Arena and Morey Courts Recreation Center, will also become the new home of the Morey Gymnastics Center. 

“We’ve done a fair amount of research in Isabella County for it,” Morey says. “There’s a lot of young people that would like to be or are in gymnastics, but one of the closest places is in Freeland for them to go. We started the construction, which should be done by the end of the year, with programming starting early this spring.”

The Morey Foundation is the primary donor, alongside another unnamed-as-of-yet generous donor. The new 13,000-square-foot facility will feature 8,500 square feet of gymnastics space. The class-based facility will be used for classes, birthday parties, recreational gymnastics drop-in sessions and exploratory classes for kids of all ages, ranging from toddlers to tweens. The expansion will take place on the south-east end of the Recreation Center. 

Spindler says the talks surrounding the project date back to as early as 2016. 

“We looked at a lot of different things to improve community offerings. Our objective was not necessarily to bring others into the community, like the Morey Courts or the Ice Arena does with tournaments, but we really just wanted to do something that would be another community asset, and to provide programming that didn’t really exist,” he says. 

“While we looked at a bunch of different opportunities, we ultimately settled on gymnastics,” Spindler continues. “As we spoke with people in the community, we listened for the needs and wants, and gymnastics seemed to be the one that came up most frequently.”

Spindler says gymnastics is a versatile sport which can help participants with a variety of skills such as balance, tumbling, and core strength—plus can act as a gateway to other sports’ disciplines. He’s also hoping this addition can provide a well-rounded, convenient outing for families. 

“If families are involved in hockey or figure skating, basketball or volleyball, and have younger siblings, maybe they can have one of their kids in the programming at the Gymnastics Center, and another one in the other facilities. The benefit of being a Sportsplex is that if a mom or dad, grandma or grandpa drops their kids off, they can be at the same facility and get in a workout class, too.”

Ultimately, The Morey Foundation believes in the importance of community, supporting and enriching education, culture, social and economic life all throughout Isabella County. They do their work for the future—not for recognition—but for the long-lasting, sustainable legacy of the past and present. 

“Most of our projects do involve buildings,” Morey says. “My dad liked to build buildings and I like to build buildings because they last a lot longer than a lot of organizations do. One thing I also learned, too, is that just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they’re going to come. You’ve got to have the right reason and support afterwards. We try once we get it built, we don’t just walk away from it; we try to stay involved until they are sustainable.”

Spindler agrees that knowing the legacy of these buildings and the community they create will live on long after, reassuring him they’re doing the right type of work. 

“When you can sit back and see these things exist in our community, knowing we had a little bit of a hand in it, that’s what is the most rewarding,” Spindler says. “I know it will be here well beyond my lifetime, and that’s the coolest part.”

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at