May 3, 2021

Monday, May 3, 2021

On the Journey: The Critical Role of Community Leaders in Advancing Equity & Inclusion

The Community Foundation of St. Clair County recently announced a $100,000 gift into their Equity and Inclusion (E&I) Fund to advance philanthropy in communities of color throughout the region – a gift that foundation leaders say was an unexpected opportunity to boost the efforts of their E&I Committee. 

According to the Community Foundation, after 15 years of equity and inclusion work that took a variety of forms and occurred at different levels, the E&I committee formalized their external efforts under the guidance of local community members.

The committee is one of 23 committees and boards under the community foundation.

The E&I Committee aims to engage in bold philanthropy that supports people of color in telling their own stories and becoming philanthropists in their circles of influence. The committee has also prioritized partnering with women- and minority-owned small businesses.

According to a press release, the E&I Committee is comprised of 15 community members with different backgrounds that bring new ideas and perspectives.

“Our committee members’ various backgrounds, professions and community ties help improve connections to our local underserved populations and provide an opportunity for our committee to work with these groups in the thumb coast region in new and impactful ways,” said Jazmyn Thomas, the first chair of the E&I Committee.

The Community Foundation described the importance of intentionality in building relationships and supporting local organizations doing great work that they may not be conventionally connected to through other channels.

“It takes a consistent mindfulness of opportunities to be more equitable and inclusive,” Kevin Totty, program coordinator at the community foundation said. “It’s also important to show that equity and inclusion matters in all areas of our work at the foundation, not just at the committee level. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work does not rest exclusively on the shoulders of this committee. It is the responsibility of every committee and every board and staff member at the foundation."

The engagement of community members and the centering of relationships has become an important aspect of the foundation’s grantmaking. 

“That helps us to look beyond what is written in a grant proposal, that may not reflect the whole picture of impact an organization is making,” Totty said. “We ask how we might surround nonprofit partners with other resources and connections to make their work easier and sometimes even elevate their impact.” 

As one example of their impact in action, the committee recently awarded a grant to the Save Our Neighborhoods & Streets (SONS) organization to support college readiness, granted funds to support the dedication of a Tuskegee Airmen Memorial and partnered with Blue Water Indigenous Alliance to build a wigwam for the community

“E&I members have stated that they enjoy grantmaking and members have expressed that grantmaking is a portion of philanthropy, however the relationship building process is priceless because it knits us to the heartbeat of our community,” Totty said.

The committee will continue its work in the focus area of small business support for women and minority business owners and continue working to help more local students of color apply for scholarships.

Totty shared that the committee is excited about what’s next, including the creation of their first task force to begin a Minority Philanthropy Initiative which will operate as a giving circle. This giving circle will expand the opportunity to be a philanthropist and make an impact on more community members.

“The E&I committee engages in philanthropy that allows folks to tell their personal story. The members leverage their time, talents and treasures to produce hope,” Totty said.

The committee understands that the journey towards equity and inclusion continues.

“We definitely know that we don’t know it all and may not always get it right but we’re willing to have meaningful conversations to grow and keep learning,” Totty said. 

Want more?

Learn more about the E&I Committee. 

Staff working in development are invited to join your peers on May 11 for the Development Staff Roundtable to share insights and challenges from your work and crowdsource ideas from colleagues across the state.



Partnerships Support Equitable Vaccine Distribution and Education

Throughout the pandemic CMF has highlighted Michigan philanthropy’s collaborative responses to the ongoing crises of public health and economic downturn. There have been many powerful stories of partnership within our CMF community to address the ongoing needs of communities amid the pandemic. 

The Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation is partnering with nonprofits that address basic needs and provide programming for vulnerable youth and families. 

The foundation has collaborated with Honor Community Health to support COVID-19 community-based vaccine clinics in Pontiac and surrounding areas.  

Honor Community Health is a federally qualified health center (FQHC) that provides access to primary, behavioral health, dental care and other services. Honor Community Health’s primary focus is to provide high quality health services to those who have little or no access to health care. 

“Many of our current partners, like Honor Community Health, have deep inroads into the communities they serve. Providing support for Honor Community Health made sense as it is a trusted source for healthcare and education in Pontiac and the surrounding community,” Virginia Romano, chief executive officer of the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation said. 

While vaccines have become progressively more available, there remains a critical need for equitable vaccine access and distribution.  

“By offering vaccines in churches, schools and group homes, Honor is working to ensure that the most vulnerable populations, including individuals within the Black and Brown community, as well as those with serious mental health and physical disabilities, have convenient, easy access in their own neighborhoods,” Romano said. 

Romano said that vaccine education will play an increasingly essential role and sharing informative messages about vaccines, their safety and necessity will be even more important.

We continue to highlight efforts led by and in partnership with CMF members to increase access and education around the vaccine. We invite you to view our recent coverage of The Kresge Foundation, Dart Foundation,

Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Saginaw Community Foundation and Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

Is your organization supporting efforts connected to the education, access or distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine? Share your story with the CMF team as we lift up opportunities for peer engagement and share emerging grantmaking practices with our entire CMF community.




Chelsea Holmes Matz Named New Executive Director of the Gratiot County Community Foundation

Chelsea Holmes Matz, former program coordinator at CMF, is taking the helm for the Gratiot County Community Foundation (GCCF) as their new executive director. 

Holmes Matz was selected over more than 20 other applicants and will replace the retiring Tina Travis, who has held the executive director role for 18 years.

Holmes Matz has deep knowledge of the Gratiot County area as an Alma native and given her previous experience with the foundation.

“Throughout high school, I volunteered as an active member of the Gratiot County Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council (YAC) and was selected to serve as President my senior year,” she shared.

“I helped lead a group of 100 youth to demonstrate a philanthropic spirit, serve their communities and administer an endowment fund awarding grants for youth to implement service projects within the community of Gratiot County,” Holmes Matz told CMF.

She shared that as she was reflecting on next steps in her career path, this position with the foundation stood out as an incredible opportunity and exactly what she was hoping to find. 

“I have spent my career working in the foundation, corporate and nonprofit sectors and I am pleased to be returning to my Gratiot County roots. Growing up in Alma, I saw firsthand the hard-working ethos of this county,” Holmes Matz said.

Holmes Matz shared how serving on the Foundation’s YAC fostered within her a philanthropic spirit and a desire to be a part of a community that values developing a culture of service.

“I am honored and very excited to be returning home to Gratiot County where I got my start in philanthropy as a member of the Foundation’s YAC. It is an incredible opportunity for my philanthropy journey to come full circle to become the Executive Director of the Gratiot County Community Foundation,” Holmes Matz said.

Holmes Matz shared with CMF how philanthropy and service have been instilled within her throughout her life. 

“Growing up, my parents taught me the value of helping others. As I grew older, I developed my own sense of service, involving myself in many different volunteer activities,” Holmes Matz said. 

She shared that she is looking forward to continuing the impact the foundation has made on the community for the past 30 years. 

“2022 marks the 30th anniversary for the Foundation. In the past 29 years, the total dollar value of grants awarded by the Foundation has surpassed $6 million. This investment in our community has truly made Gratiot County a better place to work, live, own a business and raise a family,” Holmes Matz said. 

During her role as program coordinator at CMF, Holmes Matz supported foundations across Michigan and developed programming initiatives, and served as a liaison for five CMF affinity groups in the areas of arts and culture, human resources, aging, women and girls, and environment. 

She was also very involved with community foundations throughout Michigan and Michigan’s 86 YACs, working to engage youth in philanthropy, service and grantmaking. 

“I am very thankful for my time at CMF, and all the wonderful work I was able to support with foundations across Michigan. My experiences at CMF have helped prepare me for my new role and my continued engagement in philanthropy,” Holmes Matz said. 

She is excited to return home and begin working in a community she knows so well.

“In every aspect of my life, the lessons learned from Gratiot County have allowed me to make a difference and be engaged in solving challenges. I am proud to return and be part of the fabric of this great community,” Holmes Matz said. 

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