In the early 1990’s, community leaders recognized the desire and need for a community foundation dedicated to serving Menominee and Marinette counties. This desire and need was fostered by matching grants being offered by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) for communities throughout Michigan that were willing to start local community foundations as well as the insightful guidance and inspiration of Betty Weemes.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. In the early 1990’s, WKKF dedicated a substantial pool of funds to be used solely as matching funds (on a “1 to 2” basis) for communities throughout Michigan that were willing to start a local community foundation.
These 50% matching grants focused on issues and causes having strong youth involvement. Among the grant requirements were:
Several members of the Menominee Rotary Club, including Dave Higley, Wes Hoffman, Roger Derusha, John Seaborg, Randy Neelis and Don Gehrke gathered several times after Rotary meetings to brainstorm how to begin. They consulted with both Betty Weems and representatives of The Council of Michigan Foundations for guidance in their organizing efforts.
As a result of an article that was published in the local newspaper about their efforts and ever expanding discussion by and among this core group of community leaders, several additional interested parties joined the core group to lay the ground work to formally organize a local community foundation. This group included Mary Staudenmaier, Katie Jones, John Reinke and Matt Minor.
On August 29, 1994, the “Menominee Area Community Foundation” was formally incorporated as a Michigan Domestic Nonprofit Corporation by initial incorporators Wes Hoffman and Dave Higley. Shortly thereafter, with the substantial help from local accountant Matt Minor, the Foundation applied for and received 501(c) tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, thus allowing virtually all gifts to the Foundation to be treated as tax deductible by donors. To better serve both Menominee and Marinette counties, on January 24, 1996, the Foundation officially changed its name to “The M&M Area Community Foundation” (MMACF). The initial focus of the MMACF was to raise local funds that would qualify for the WKKF 50% matching funds.
During the first round of WKKF funding, the MMACF raised $75,000. The initial local funds that were raised came from multiple sources but the vast majority of these funds were donated by and through the generosity of our local banks.
WKKF the deadline for applying for matching finds, thus creating a second round of continued WKKF match funding. During this second round the MMACF raised an additional $180,000 in qualifying funds. The second round local funds were raised from a number of very generous local leaders. It was during this fundraising effort that MMACF Board Member Roger Derusha made an incredibly generous donation that allowed the MMACF to maximize its efforts to received WKKF matching funds.
When the MMACF learned that WKKF had finally set a firm deadline for matching funds requests, the MMACF aggressively sought out as much local funding as possible to provide the Foundation with as large of a base as possible from which to enter the post-WKKF era. This fundraising effort was commonly referred to as the third round of funding. The MMACF was successful in raising approximately $1,000,000 of WKKF qualifying funds, thus allowing the MMACF to received matching funds in the approximate amount of $500,000. With the help of certain local banks and their visionary and charitable leadership, this phase of WKKF fundraising involved, among other things, the successful transfer of bank held scholarship funds to the MMACF for future management.
At this point the MMACF endowed funding was approaching $2,000,000. Of this amount, approximately $625,000 was Kellogg related and therefore, dedicated specifically to youth related matters.
The M&M Area Community Foundation provided its first grants in 1997 totaling $5,000. In 1998, $20,000 in grants were awarded and the amount of grants was increased significantly in succeeding years.