The Community Endowment

Charlevoix County has changed over the past hundred years...

and while no one knows how the County will change over the next hundred years, the Community Endowment at the Charlevoix County Community Foundation will be able to address needs and advance opportunities … whatever they may be.

Since 1992, thousands of people who love this special place have pooled their resources to make a difference through the Community Foundation. 

The Community Foundation accepts large and small contributions from people, which are carefully invested to grow over time. Each year, earnings are used to make grants that support a variety of community programs that enrich Charlevoix County for all of us. Programs and projects that the Community Foundation supports now are the result of gifts made by donors in the past.

One endowed fund within the Community Foundation, the Community Endowment, is the most flexible and far-reaching. The Community Endowment provides long-term charitable support to help communities across Charlevoix County become stronger, healthier, more vibrant, and ready for whatever needs and opportunities will exist years from now.

Anyone can give to the Community Endowment, where gifts combine to grow and make grants over time. Because this fund is endowed, it will continue to grow and provide grant dollars to make a difference for people in Charlevoix County now and into the future.

From Beaver Island to Boyne Falls, for the arts, the trails, the children, the lakes, and more. 

For good. For ever.

Join us in the mission to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of Charlevoix County, now and for generations to come:

Make a donation to the Community Endowment:     

Learn more about Funds for the Community

Photo: Charlevoix, 1922.



Alyce Lesser was an active community member beginning in 1974 when she and her husband Harry moved permanently to Charlevoix.  She was originally from St. Louis, but grew fond of northern Michigan when she married Harry and embraced his family’s tradition of visiting Charlevoix each summer.  Mrs. Lesser worked for several years as a real estate agent in the area, all the while giving her time to Keep Charlevoix Beautiful, Antrim/Charlevoix Board of Realtors, Crooked Tree Arts Council, Little Traverse Conservancy, and more.

This legacy of community engagement and improvement continues through the Alyce Lesser Fund for the Community at the Charlevoix County Community Foundation.  Memorial gifts were directed to the Community Foundation and the Fund was established in 1994.  Since then, the Fund has contributed to grants made in and around Charlevoix County in her name.  Among others, the Fund has supported Charlevoix Area Community Pool, Charlevoix Public Library, Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

“She always made people feel better about themselves,” said Dick Georgi at the time she passed away.  His wife Cheryl added “she just had a warm heart for everybody.  She was very intelligent and had a wide variety of friends.”  Those who knew Mrs. Lesser and those who didn’t all benefit from the good work that has been accomplished from this Fund for the Community.  Because the Lesser Fund is endowed, it will continue that good work in Mrs. Lesser’s name in the future.



Chip Hansen served as the President of the Charlevoix County Community Foundation since July 2010. During Hansen’s tenure, the assets of the Community Foundation grew from $19.4 million in July 2010 to more than $55 million in 2023.  The number of charitable funds grew to 330. Total grants and scholarships increased from $1 million to more than $2.5 million annually.  More than 80 Legacy Society members were added as well, and those future gifts will ensure that the Community Foundation will continue to work at the intersection of resources and opportunity well into the future. 

Making a donation to the Chip Hansen Fund for the Community is a great way to recognize and celebrate Chip's retirement after 13 years leading the Community Foundation as President. The Fund will work alongside the Community Endowment to make a difference in Charlevoix County for generations to come.





Drost serves northern Michigan with a wide variety of landscaping services that include design, construction, maintenance, tree services, irrigation, and lighting. A locally owned and operated business since 1991, the Drost family and the company’s employees live, work, and play in the areas they serve. The business sponsors hands-on support for community projects, such as home landscapes for Northwest Michigan Habitat for Humanity and flower bed installation with area Garden Clubs to name just a few. Drost encourages employees to share their time and talents with the community, as well.

In addition to giving to the community through landscape installation, Drost has established the Drost Fund for the Community to give back now and in the future. “We aim to be leaders in our field,” says Dale Drier, general manager, “and when we considered how to have a positive impact in Charlevoix County, it made sense to look to the Community Foundation as the leader in their field.”  The Drost Fund for the Community will boost grant-making alongside the Community Fund, forever. These permanent, powerful charitable resources will meet needs and advance opportunities in Charlevoix County, even as those needs and opportunities change over time. The Community Foundation is proud to partner with Drost to make a difference right here, close to home.

Photo: Founder Bob Drost and Drost employees



The Edward B. Leverich Memorial Fund was originally established in 2009 to honor and memorialize Dr. Leverich. “The Fund is so important because it honors my husband. He was a Prince of Man,” says Mrs. Anne Leverich, his widow. Ten years later, when grants could no longer be made as intended, Mrs. Leverich worked with the Community Foundation to adjust the purpose of the fund and modify the fund name to include them both. Mrs. Leverich liked that the Fund would meet needs in Charlevoix County even as they change over time. When Mrs. Leverich passed away in 2021, family and friends made gifts to the Fund in her memory. The Edward B. and Anne C. Leverich Fund for the Community will work alongside the Community Endowment and other Funds for the Community to make a difference close to home, now and for generations to come.




Sgt. Frank Joseph Strehl of East Jordan, Army 4th Infantry Division, met Betty Jo Clinard of Jackson after he lost both legs serving in World War II.  His platoon was the first to arrive in Paris but was ordered to wait and allow an English regiment to be the first forces to liberate the city. After stepping on a land mine, Frank was sent to Percy Jones Hospital. While there, his roommate was visited by his girlfriend who worked at the defense plant. She brought along a friend and fellow worker, Betty Jo. Frank and Betty Jo met in February and were married on October 20, 1945. 

The Strehls moved to East Jordan in 1948, where Frank was a watchmaker and jeweler and Betty Jo was an insurance agent. The Strehls loved their community and established a fund with the Community Foundation in 1999. When they passed away, Frank in 2011 and Betty Jo in 2018, the Fund was converted to the Frank J. and Betty J. Strehl Fund for the Community, where their gift can make a lasting impact for generations to come, in the areas of greatest need. 

Photo: Frank and Betty Jo Strehl celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary in 2010. 


Kerry and john keyser FUND FOR THE COMMUNITY     

After years of summering in Charlevoix, Kerry and John felt called to move here. Their love and appreciation for the people and community continues to grow. “There are so many people who care deeply about our communities and are eager to help and serve others,” says Kerry. “It is really inspiring.”  

The couple learned about the Charlevoix County Community Foundation as they became more engaged locally. “We have great admiration for the people of the Foundation, their knowledge of the needs throughout the area, and their decisions about the best use of support received from the community,” explains John.

“We also came to understand that living here can be extremely challenging with definite hardships for many residents. We looked to the Community Foundation to help us help others since they are in a position to know about the large number of nonprofits and other worthy causes,” adds Kerry.

Kerry and John have partnered with the Community Foundation to establish an endowment that will help meet needs and advance opportunities, even as needs and opportunities change over time. “We feel blessed to be a part of this community and believe that our support will help to make a difference well into the future,” says John.



Laura was the Foundation’s first official employee in 1992, working part-time to help get the C3F off the ground and she retired in July 2021 after 29 years of excellence. She worked with the first Executive Director, Bob Tambellini, for many years and, while Bob may have had the title, he has said of working with Laura, “Actually, she was the one in charge a great deal of the time.”

Feedback from colleagues, staff, and friends of the Community Foundation reinforces this sentiment. Laura has always been a constant at the organization, answering questions, guiding donors and trustees, helping new staff learn their roles, making people feel welcome, heard, and acknowledged, and of course, making sure all of the dollars are in the right places.

In addition to this critical, behind-the-scenes work, Laura also managed the production of the Annual Report for many years, working alongside a team of photographers and designers. She will tell you that being engaged in telling the C3F story through the Annual Report was both fun and rewarding. 

Today’s team at C3F will certainly miss Laura, and not just because of all the institutional knowledge she carries with her! Laura brings a sense of fun, a willingness to always learn new things, and her caring, big heart to the team and we will miss her. Her retirement is well-deserved, and we wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on this new adventure in life.

To honor her legacy at the Community Foundation, the 2021 C3F Board of Trustees started the Laura Hansen Fund for the Community. Gifts made to this fund will work alongside the Community Endowment to provide grant dollars that will go back into the community for generations to come, improving the quality of life for all in Charlevoix County. 


Phyllis childs memorial fund for the community     

Phyllis Childs was accomplished in the fields of speech pathology and audiology during her working life. After a 42-year career, she brought that energy to East Jordan when she relocated to her vacation home. She continued to use her special skills to help children, working for Char-Em ISD and serving as a substitute teacher in local schools.

Organizations such as East Jordan Family Health Center, Crossroads Resale Shop, Jordan Valley District Library, Michigan Works Learning Lab, and the Presbyterian Church benefitted from her commitment to volunteerism. She even played percussion in the Jordan Valley Community Band!

When Phyllis passed away in September 2020, her family wished to recognize her in a fitting way. “My mother had many areas of interest and many local organizations that were meaningful to her, which made it hard to decide the best way to honor her,” explains Phyllis’ daughter Nancy Taylor. “We chose to establish a Fund for the Community to focus on the overall goal of building community in this place she treasured.”

The Phyllis Childs Memorial Fund for the Community will help to meet community needs and advance opportunities in her name forever, even as needs and opportunities change over time. “We appreciate the opportunity to honor and recognize this positive, dynamic woman with an endowment here at the Community Foundation,” says Sara Ward, Director of Development and Donor Services. “Phyllis made a difference during her time here and the Fund for the Community established by her family will continue her important legacy.”




Trustees Fund for the community     

The Trustees Fund for the Community was created in early 2019 to honor current and former trustees and their service to the Community Foundation. Established by the Board with gifts in memory of trustees who have passed away, the Community Foundation will intentionally grow the Trustees Fund each year with contributions to welcome, thank, and honor our trustees. The Trustees Fund is evidence of the Board’s commitment to increasing unrestricted grant-making assets that can meet needs and advance opportunities in Charlevoix County, even as needs and opportunities change over time. Current and former trustees – and those who wish to acknowledge them – are invited to give to the Trustees Fund for the Community to benefit the area for generations to come.


Van Dam Family Fund for the Community     

Van Dam is a name known locally – and far beyond Charlevoix County – as shorthand for high quality. Steve and Jean Van Dam founded and built Van Dam Custom Boats, originally in Harbor Springs and later in Boyne City. Their purposeful commitment to continuous improvement shows up at the top of a list of fundamental beliefs that have shaped the culture of the business, but also in casual conversation with Steve and Jean. This idea of sustained effort – even if the movement forward is just incremental – has shaped their approach to philanthropy, too. “We realized that our scope of influence is pretty small, but the Dalai Lama said it succinctly and we have taken this to heart, ‘Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.’ With that in mind, we as individuals have focused our energy on what we can do here, close to home, bit by bit and step by step,” explained Steve.

Jean shared her reality of having little extra to share in the early years of the business. “Mike Stowe, a friend and business owner who served on the Community Foundation’s board along with me, imprinted on me that you do what you can, each and every year. ‘Little by little’ adds up and can really be helpful over time,” she noted.

The pair enjoys giving in a small community: “The Boyne City Pavilion on the waterfront, the LTC nature preserves around our community, or the letters from organizations that receive grants from Hestia Women’s Giving Circle – we see the good that comes from giving and we see the results directly,” said Jean. “And we give through the Community Foundation because of the mission – the forward-focus and steady growth over time. The founders knew there was potential to have an impact for the future and we see those results now,” added Steve. “We hope that as we grow the Van Dam Family Fund for the Community we can be a part of those results for those who come next.”


Williamson Family Fund for the Community     

Sam and Cass Williamson love to sail, a pastime which they have been enjoying together for more than 50 years. In part, this love of sailing is what drew them to northern Michigan. “We have been sailing in this area since 1983,” recalls Sam. “In 1996 we bought a cottage here and then eventually replaced it with a house,” offers Cass. “We couldn’t resist the beauty of the area – the water, the open space, the opportunities to cross country ski – we love it here,” she says.

The Williamsons first learned about the Community Foundation from friends in Charlevoix. “I heard about a tool called a donor advised fund, which sounded like a great way to coordinate our giving,” explains Sam. “We wanted to give to organizations we care about locally, but also in Chicago and in the communities where our children live.” Since 2007, the Williamsons have used their donor advised fund to support health, human services, social justice, and environmental organizations. “We appreciate what the Community Foundation does for this area and we want to be supportive,” notes Sam.

Along those lines, Sam and Cass decided to establish the Williamson Family Fund for the Community in 2020. This flexible endowment will provide support to meet needs and advance opportunities in Charlevoix County, even as those needs and opportunities change over time. “We are so grateful for this kind of leadership gift from Sam and Cass,” says Community Foundation president Chip Hansen. “Because of the power of endowment and the collaborative grantmaking approach that allows for funds of all sizes to make a difference for our area’s residents, the Williamson Family Fund for the Community will have an impact in more ways than one.”