Our History

Community is our Foundation.

Prior to establishing the Community Foundation in 1992, founding executive director Maureen Nicholson (third from left) and founding board secretary James T. Ramer (third from right) joined other Michigan community foundation colleagues to research and learn more about the model.

In 1991, a group of forward-thinking and civic-minded individuals gathered to consider new ways of investing in the community they all loved. Hearing from colleagues at the Frey Foundation, including Harbor Springs resident Ted Frey, and the Council of Michigan Foundations, this group learned about the community foundation model and what it could mean for the Little Traverse Bay area.

Our founders established the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation to encourage the community to invest in itself with the lofty mission of promoting local giving for the betterment of everyone. Using the power of endowment—pooling and investing dollars from generous donors and community members—this group of local leaders along with local donors built the foundation of work that continues to this day, and will continue into the future. Community is truly our foundation.

A steering committee of interested community leaders was formed to study the idea of establishing a community foundation to benefit the Little Traverse Bay area. Members of this committee were Herbert H. Carlson, John S. Clark, John E. Fought, Hiland Hall, Maureen Nicholson and James T. Ramer.  In May 1991, this committee reported back to the group that attended the first introductory meetings and there was overwhelming support to move forward. These six members continued to lay the ground work and served as the incorporating board.

The first annual meeting was held July 16, 1992. 

On July 16, 1992, the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation held its first annual meeting to elect the founding board of directors, to announce the organization’s first executive director, and to formally launch of the organization. In a Petoskey News-Review article appearing the following day under the heading “Liftoff,” Jim Ramer, one of the founding board members, likened the event to the launching of a space shuttle. Ramer said, “This organization will ‘lift off’ at the conclusion of this meeting today.”

Of the work to establish the organization, founding chairman the late John S. Clark said, “What we learned is that there are many reasons for establishing a community foundation to serve the Petoskey-Harbor Springs area. Perhaps the most important reason is that a community foundation helps build the community’s charitable capital. The foundation is the community’s ‘savings account’ to meet the changing social and cultural needs of our area.”

Elected at the first annual meeting were founding board members:

John S. Clark, Chairman of the Board
Hiland Hall, President
David H. Irish, Vice-President
James T. Ramer, Secretary
John E. Fought, Treasurer
Maureen Nicholson, Executive Director
Herbert H. Carlson
Robert W. Clarke
Mary Caroline Frey
Edward J. Frey Jr.
James N. Gamble
Richard A. Lent
Edgar Lotspeich
eddi Offield
Shirlee L. Tallberg
David F. Thomas

Our first board members were visionaries who wanted to create a permanent charitable resource to serve the Little Traverse Bay area they loved. Today, their legacy is carried out by a Board of Directors whose members represent all areas of Emmet County and a hard-working group of dedicated community volunteers who serve on our committees.