Grand Haven partners with foundation to celebrate a half-century of philanthropy

The Grand Haven Area Community Foundation (GHACF) celebrated its 50th anniversary by bringing community benevolence to the forefront via public art, children’s literacy, and cultivating some TLC to green spaces. Fifteen northwest Ottawa County businesses joined in as well, creating new items or renaming existing merchandise that reflected the foundation’s golden jubilee.

It all started 50 years ago when a group of community leaders each gave $100 to start what is now the GHACF. Community support has grown GHACF’s total assets to more than $160 million in grants.

To reflect its five-decade philanthropic thrust, GHACF kicked off its celebration with its Day of Giving Back, which brought volunteers in to help maintain parks and trails by picking up litter and removing invasive plant species that put the native habitats at risk.

Additional community activities included the foundation’s first Sidewalk Chalk Celebration, which transformed the community with bright colors and stunning artwork. The Foundational Art Exhibit, in partnership with the Muskegon Art Museum and the Lakeshore Visual Arts Collective, provided an avenue for local artists to showcase their handiwork in places that have benefitted from GHACF grants.

Businesses pitch in

A local book store, The Bookman, linked arms with the GHACF through a free book promotion for young minds. Manufacturer Shape Corp. covered the purchasing cost of the books the foundation ordered, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids,” by Carol McCloud and David Messing. The foundation then distributed them to all second-graders in northwest Ottawa County. The “bucket book” promotes not only reading but happiness, too, by helping others, says Scott Lange, The Bookman’s book buyer.

“It’s a great way to partner with the foundation, it’s a way to spread literacy, to spread it throughout the district,” says Lange. “It’s important for us as a bookstore, and lovers of language and lovers of literature, that kids start early with reading. So this is a great opportunity to improve not only their reading skills but also to improve themselves as people.”

Patricia’s Chocolates in downtown Grand Haven created a box of Michigan-themed chocolates, which includes a booklet with a “flavor map” that describes the flavors inside.

“We know several of the people involved in the foundation, and we’ve always admired what they do and wanted to lend a hand to support their endeavors,” says Paul Christopher, who co-owns Patricia’s Chocolates with his wife, Patricia.
Inspiring a shared future Hadley Streng, president of the GHACF, says the 50th anniversary not only was about celebrating what the foundation accomplished, but also inspiring a shared future.

“We are grateful to each person who gave their time, talent, and treasure to make our celebration a success,” says Hadley. “The impact we’ve made together — and will continue to make for generations to come — reflects the strength of our partnerships and our dedication to making a positive impact on every person who lives, works, and plays in northwest Ottawa County.”

The GHACF’s work is aligned with six impact areas: arts and culture, diversity and inclusion, economic and community betterment, education, environment, and health and human services.

By focusing its funding on these areas, the foundation has been able to address many needs critical to the people of northwest Ottawa County.

Later in the anniversary year, the foundation connected with the community via social media with its Community Choice Grant competition, where it sought input from residents on community improvement projects. After the votes were cast, the foundation provided $50,000 in grants to local municipalities.

Read more articles by Paul R. Kopenkoskey.