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Opinion: Building a stronger, healthier community together

Shared from the Record-Eagle (11/29/2020):


In recent years, it has been a priority of our Community Foundation to learn and understand more about the unique needs and assets of our community, as well as grow and become more active in our role as a community convener. In doing this, we’ve learned about some of the greatest challenges facing our region – from a significant percentage of local children not prepared to thrive when they begin kindergarten, to families overburdened by the cost of housing and transportation, to a decline in the number of working families. We’ve also seen the value of our vibrant arts and culture, quality water resources, and beautiful natural spaces – all needing dedicated and intentional support to endure as assets.

There are numerous examples all across our region of talented and dedicated organizations and people working to drive positive change in these, and other, areas of challenge and opportunity. Over the last year, the Community Foundation has worked alongside more than two dozen government, nonprofit, business, and philanthropic leaders, developing a collaborative, cross-sector Community Development Strategy and Coalition. We are united in a commitment to interdependent strategies and shared accountability for measurable economic, societal, and environmental outcomes to achieve transformational change in our communities.

Recently, we publicly launched this shared work, the centerpiece of which is a new, interactive website: www.nwmicommunitydevelopment.org.  Here we’re featuring a scorecard of shared goals focused on jobs, education, health, arts, environment, and more. The scorecard identifies ambitious targets to achieve by 2030 and is grounded in measurable and accessible data, and informed by comprehensive studies and public outreach conducted across the region.

The scorecard is an essential tool to measure and report progress and demonstrates the value of the strategy’s ability to connect work and partners. Coalition Contributors work together to share information, coordinate action, align resources, and access funding from outside our region. This coordinated work is underway and demonstrated in efforts such as:

  • Collaboration among regional foundations and philanthropists, the TBAISD, and TCAPS to preserve the Great Start Readiness Program, a high-quality preschool program serving more than 100 local students
  • Jointly authoring a letter of support for legislation that would allow community colleges to offer a bachelor of science degree in nursing, a move that aligns with three of the scorecard’s economic objectives
  • Advocating for state funding to support a Housing Ready Coordinator in Grand Traverse County, a model to drive housing solutions across our region
  • Partnerships among BATA, Norte, TART Trails, GTRLC, and other to improve community mobility and create more walkable and bikeable communities

We are excited about this Community Development Strategy, our committed partners, and the potential for positive impact in our region. The newly launched website provides access for organizations, businesses, and individuals to learn about the work and get involved. We invite you to help advance these goals by offering your time and energy to the partners and projects providing programs and services and by investing in organizations doing meaningful work. Together, we are building a stronger, healthier place for everyone who lives, works, and plays here – now and for the future.


David Mengebier is the President and CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community, a role he’s held since January 2018. The Community Foundation for Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau Counties is focused on creating healthy, resilient, thriving communities by serving donors, awarding meaningful grants and scholarships, and participating in collaborative leadership on important community issues. For more information about the Community Foundation, visit www.gtrcf.org or call 231-935-4066.

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