2017-11-26 / Insight

Still growing

Four County Community Foundation aims to grow six community funds
BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Janet Bauer has been in charge of the Four County Community Foundation for 19 of its 30 years. 
Photo by Phil Foley Janet Bauer has been in charge of the Four County Community Foundation for 19 of its 30 years. Photo by Phil Foley ALMONT — Community Hospital, a small 32-bed facility In Bruce Township just south of Almont, met the medical needs of Almont and surrounding communities for nearly 30 years.

When it ceased being a hospital in 1987, it continued to meet those needs in an ever expanding way through the creation of the Four County Community Foundation.

Janet Bauer, the foundation’s president and CEO, said the foundation has grown from its initial endowment of $2.5 million from the hospital’s sale to St. Joseph Mercy of Macomb to $15.4 million today.

Over the past 30 years the foundation has awarded more than $8 million in grants to scores of organizations in Lapeer, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties.

None of it, said Bauer, would have been possible without the support of donors.


Sara Kruger, the foundation’s account, is one of three part-time employees at the Four County Community Foundation. The foundation also has a core of 70-plus volunteers. Sara Kruger, the foundation’s account, is one of three part-time employees at the Four County Community Foundation. The foundation also has a core of 70-plus volunteers. The foundation manages 121 funds, but for Giving Tuesday (Nov. 28) it will be focused on growing its six community funds — the Almont Education and Community Fund, the Dryden/ Metamora Community Fund; and Imlay City Community Fund; Armada “Al Verlinde” Community Fund; the Capac Community Fund; and the Romeo Community Action Fund.

The goal, Bauer said, is to add $10,000 to each of the fund’s endowments through community donations and matching foundation funds.

Four County, Bauer said, operates of a slightly different model then most charities. Instead of raising and spending money all in one year, the foundation creates endowments, which are prudently invested, and the funds use the endowments’ income to meet their missions.

That strategy, she said, left Four County in healthy financial condition, even during the recession, but it found itself under growing pressure as its client’s needs increased.

In recent years Four County received significant boosts from three donations of more than $1 million — Hilda Hill, a retired school teacher who taught in Almont, Imlay City and Capac; Dora and Toos Ondersma, a pair of Dutch sisters who retired to the Imlay City area; and Sam and Ellenor Mendola, who owned the Almont Saddlery. However, Bauer said, the mainstay of the foundation has been the “thousands and thousands of donors” who make $50 and $100 donations.

The donations have allowed Four County to expand its activities significantly. In its early years the foundation focused almost exclusively on education, but as the endowment grew, it turned its attention to public safety, parks and recreation and other areas.

“There are few people in southeast Lapeer County who have not benefited in one way or another” from the foundation’s activities, she said.

Bauer said when a request for funding comes in, the first question the committee asks is “what difference are we making?” She said recent funding approved by the foundation has been as varied as supporting improvements to the Polly Ann Trail to helping start a drug court in Lapeer County.

Bauer is the foundation’s only full-time employee. She’s supported by a part-time accountant and program associate and a “very part-time” youth advisor. A lot of the foundation’s work is done by a core of 70-some volunteers from the four counties it serves.

A donation to Four County, Bauer said, no matter how small, will help the foundation “do good forever.” She said that along with the 121 funds that people can contribute to, they can also create a name a new fund by committing to donate a minimum of $10,000 over a five-year period.

To learn more about The Four County Community Foundation and its activities, visit www.4ccf.org.

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