Continuing our commitment to housing in Emmet County, the Community Foundation approved a short-term, zero interest loan of $120,000 to Northwest Michigan Habitat for Humanity in September 2020. The loan, now fully repaid, allowed Habitat to purchase a modular-style home for one of its lots in Oden. This partnership also launched Habitat’s Home Ready Program, designed to provide affordable housing options for those who are “mortgage ready” but struggling to find a house in their price range. The Community Foundation has been working alongside Habitat for several years as members of the Little Traverse Bay Housing Partnership, actively seeking housing solutions that overcome challenges like high rents, low wages, seasonal work, and the rising costs of building a new home. In November 2020, the Community Foundation made a $20,000 grant to Northwest Michigan Habitat from our Emmet Housing Solutions Fund to help offset some unexpected infrastructure costs at two home build sites. Established in 2019, our Emmet Housing Solutions Fund was created to help address the myriad pre-development costs that are barriers to creating homes for people in Emmet County.
Building on the momentum of both community interest and of past work in clean energy, the Community Foundation partnered with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities to support its clean energy policy work in Emmet County. That partnership helped bring both additional awareness and energy, if you’ll pardon the pun, to initiatives throughout Emmet County. In 2020, the City of Petoskey boldly and unanimously committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2035. Additionally, grant dollars supported the City of Petoskey’s energy audits to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings. Another grant helped with the installation of a solar array at Pellston Public Schools. Solar panels also arrived in Petoskey at North Central Michigan College thanks to the Leadership Little Traverse Class of 2019. Funding from the Community Foundation and the greater community saw the panels installed on campus and dedicated in September 2019. These foundational pieces ensure that Emmet County’s clean energy future is looking bright!
At the heart of the rural character of our area is local agriculture. The Community Foundation’s investment in local food initiatives literally grew from conversations about land use in the mid-2000s. Our community identified and valued “the area’s rural character and small town atmosphere,” and the Community Foundation saw an opportunity to play a leading role in increasing the viability of local agriculture. Since 2012, Community Foundation grants have helped bring awareness to local food and farming, provided increased access to fresh local foods, and helped organizations working in the space grow their capacity. Our early partnership with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities helped establish a local food and farming program where Groundwork’s Jen Schaap today continues her work which includes farm to school, food access, culinary medicine, 10 Cents a Meal, Building Resilient Communities, and mentoring FoodCorps service members. Our investment in these earlier strategic initiatives have served as building blocks for what is today a vibrant local food system connected to community through our school cafeterias and classrooms, through farmers markets and food pantries, and through an increased appreciation for local food and farming.
The road to providing county-wide public transit in Emmet County has been decades long and with its share of bumps along the way. We are energized to see that the road ahead has viable, sustainable options for providing efficient, cost-effective transit services for the people of Emmet County. Like many important issues facing our community, the public transit movement has involved collaboration among a broad group of community leaders, active citizens, volunteers, business leaders and transit experts. In the fall of 2020, along with our partners at the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation co-convened the Emmet County Public Transit Work Group. This group assembled 14 members from our community to volunteer their time to examine public transit challenges and solutions. Calling on a variety of experts in public transit, the group researched governance models including authorities and departments and provided their findings to the Emmet County Board of Commissioners in June 2021. Our thanks to this volunteer group for providing a detailed road map of public transit options in Emmet County and to the county leadership for their willingness to explore the complex issues surrounding public transit.