Max Loves Midland Campaign aims to unite residents by building community

Loving where you live is a great feeling. For many people, being part of a community they’re proud of, one they contribute to, and enjoy exploring is what makes a place feel like home. "Max Loves Midland," an initiative of the Midland Area Community Foundation, acts as a hub for entertainment, resources and community connections. 

Kevin LaDuke, communications officer at the foundation, says the work of The Community Success Panel and The Communities of Excellence has been going on since 2010. In 2019, a framework was built, made up of community leaders and members working together to accomplish goals, address community issues, and support growth. The framework was rebranded to Max Loves Midland as a public outreach initiative in 2023.
Kevin LaDuke is the communications officer for the Midland Area Community Foundation.
“After three years of outlining our challenges and advantages, and understanding that we have a wealth of knowledge where our community has specific focus areas, we wanted to make this public and really put our arms around the entire community,” LaDuke says. 

The idea of ‘Max,’ a faceless, genderless mascot encompasses everyone, furthering its vision of an inclusive community, says LaDuke. “We knew that if we wanted to lead with this initiative, we wanted to connect it back to love, and that emotional bond that folks share with their community.”

The community calendar aspect of Max Loves Midland is something that’s been in demand for a while, says LaDuke. “A community calendar creates bonds for folks, they develop shared places, and learn more about Max Loves Midland, and develop shared language around the initiative, and dig a little bit deeper into the work.”

The bigger picture of the initiative is centered around a purpose statement: Midland: an inclusive community. Together. Forward. Bold. An exceptional place where everyone thrives. “That’s really where this work is rooted,” LaDuke says. “A lot of my inspiration on this comes from an author, Peter Kageyama, who wrote, ‘For the Love of Cities.’ One of his quotes in that book is, ‘one of the most important relationships in our lives is the one we share with our community, yet it’s rarely thought of as a relationship.’ That really stuck with me as we went through this discovery process of what we wanted Max Loves Midland to become.”

Representatives from the City of Midland sport their Max Loves Midland sunglasses at the Mayor's State of the City address.
The public brand launch of Max Loves Midland began a year ago, which went live online in February of this year, and the Mayor gave it a public announcement at the State of the City address last month. “It’s been developing in different ways,” says LaDuke. “We’re reaching new folks in different ways, and I see ‘Max’ really being a catalyst for community connection for years to come.

Local organizations have been eager to submit their events to the calendar, and also to work together in planning future collaborations. “It’s spearheading a lot more connections between organizations and folks within specific sectors,” LaDuke says.

The day-to-day communicator and calendar editor is Annie Stout from Paper Heart Design. The visually-appealing, user-friendly platform is one made possible from collaborative work, says LaDuke. “The Midland Area Community Foundation is the backbone organization, but we are not the only organization involved by far. This is meant to be a project that goes much further beyond us.” LaDuke hopes the initiative can help drive change within the community, increase inclusion, and be a tool to cultivate pride within Midland.

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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