Four County Reaches Quarter Century

Foundation awards more than $6.5 million in grants in Tri-City area

by Tom Wearing: Tri-City Times

February 06, 2013

ALMONT Having marked its 25th anniversary in 2012, the Four County Community Foundation can claim a rich history of philanthropic service to the communities of Almont, Armada, Capac, Dryden, Imlay City, Metamora and Romeo.

The Foundation was established in 1987, following the sale of Almont's Community Hospital. The $2.5 million profit from the sale served as the seed money for the Foundation, whose coffers have grown incrementally to nearly $11 million in the ensuing years.

Since its inception, the Four County Community Foundation has awarded more than $6.5 million in grants to the local community.

As evidence that the organization's level of generosity has remained consistent, the Foundation awarded 253 grants in 2012, whose sum total was $284,000.

Finding a home

Originally housed in a small space in Romeo, the Foundation currently operates out of an historic eight-sided structure, located at 231 East St. Clair Street in Almont. The residence was originally the home of the late-Frederick P. and Mary Currier.

Built in 1854, the two-and-a-half story house was designed and constructed in the shape of an octagon, which was a popular style of the time.

The house was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site on April 5, 1975, and added to the National Register of Historic Places three months later.

Recognizing that the structure would make an ideal home for the Foundation, local resident David Bishop and his friend, the late- Frederick P. Currier IV, made preliminary arrangements for the Foundation to acquire the house.

The property acquisition would not become final, however, until 1999, following the unexpected passing of Frederick P. Currier IV at the age of 75.

A dedicated staff

Janet Bauer

Four County President/CEO; Janet Bauer. Photo courtesy of Tom Wearing: Tri-City Times.

Today, the Foundation's offices are manned by President/CEO Janet Bauer, Administration Assistant-Accountant Susan Gainer and Program Associate Ross Moore.

Bauer was hired in as Four County's Executive Director in 1998, succeeding Peggy Hamilton, who ran the former office in Romeo.

Before joining the Foundation, Bauer taught school for eight years at Bendle High School in Burton, Michigan. She also spent time as a consultant.

Teaming up with the Four County Community Foundation appears to have been serendipitous for all parties concerned.

"About 15 years ago, I had decided to make a major career change," Bauer recalled. "I had been targeting a foundation position and this one became available. With all the things we've been able to accomplish, this has turned out to be my dream job."

She noted that it helps to be surrounded by a dedicated Board of Directors and team of individuals whose goals are consistent with her own.

"I'm really proud of what we've been able to do," said Bauer. "I'm appreciative of the trust our donors place in us, and for their generosity and willingness to support causes and programs in our local communities.

"The partnerships we've been able to establish with our donors, the grant applicants and residents is very satisfying," she said. "We've been able to develop a culture of philanthropy that reaps rewards over the long term."

Youth assume a role

Helping spawn that culture is the participation of Four County's Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), whose membership consists of like-minded high school students.

"We're essentially planting the seeds of the future with our YAC group," said Bauer. "We hope that what they learn through this experience will carry on throughout their lives and that they pass it on to others. The idea is to perpetuate the spirit of philanthropy among future generations."

Trust begins at top

Bauer and her staff take direction from a 16-member Board of Trustees, currently headed by Chairperson Dr. Gary Richards, Vice Chairperson Dr. Jennifer Parker-Moore, Secretary John Brzozowski and Treasurer Sean O'Bryan.

Bauer said all Board officers are returning to their former roles, while Trustees Barb Quain of Capac and Dr. Hank Nichols of Imlay City are stepping down, having reached their nine-year term limits.

In honor of their significant contributions, Quain and Nichols will be recognized as Emeritus members of the Board.

To fill the vacancies, Bauer said the Board has recruited three new members. They are Sheila McDonald of Capac, Barb Redding of Dryden and Janaea Smith of Almont, each of whom is eligible to serve up to three terms, with each term lasting three years.

The newcomers will join current Board trustees Andrew Hunter, Randy Jorgensen, Denis McCarthy, Dina Miramonti, Nancy Parmenter, Laura Schapman, Greg Tarr, Al Verlinde and Joe Worden. Current YAC?President Jake Sliman also has a seat on the Board, though he does not have voting privileges.

Projects past & present

Bauer said the Four County Community Foundation Board seeks to maintain a continuum of giving that reflects the diversity and needs of the greater community.

"Our grants not only provide educational opportunities for kids, such as our No Child Left Inside initiative, said Bauer, "they benefit the public safety by helping to save lives.

"We've awarded grants to police, firefighters and EMS staff to purchase AEDs and EKG units," she continued. "Having access to these items before a patient gets to the hospital greatly improves their chance of survival."

Bauer noted that a recent donation of $2,000 for an ice skating rink in downtown Almont coincided with Four County's goal of encouraging youngsters to enjoy the out-of-doors.

The money was made available through the Foundation's unrestricted Dora and Toos Ondersma Fund.

For questions or more information about the Four County Community Foundation, call the office at 810-798-0909. Or visit the web site at: www.4ccf.org.

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