Honoring Sharon: A Special Conversation

Honoring Sharon: A Special Conversation

In 2021, the Jumpstart a Heart campaign was organized by the Marquette County Law Enforcement Administrators and Association (MCLEAA) and the Community Foundation of Marquette County to replace the automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) for law enforcement units across the county. The successful effort, which raised more than $107,000 to purchase 43 new AEDs and two trainer units, was supported by many individuals, businesses and funders. The campaign not only addressed the immediate need for equipment replacement, but also established an endowed fund to support the need in the future.

Patti Tourville, Chief Ryan Grim and Officer Jeff Czarny with an AED purchased
through the Jumpstart a Heart Campaign, which Patti and her family helped support.

Some donors, including Patti Tourville, were inspired to give to Jumpstart a Heart because someone they loved experienced a heart attack and they wanted to help save people’s lives in the future. Earlier this year, Tourville approached the Community Foundation with a very special request. She asked to meet with some local officers who would be using the AEDs funded through the campaign, including the one funded by her in memory of her sister-in-law Sharon Rose Parish.

On April 13, Tourville met with City of Marquette Police Chief Ryan Grim and Officer Jeff Czarny for coffee at their office. Tourville shared that in 2006, Sharon was working out at a gym with her husband when she suffered a heart attack and later died.

After sharing her sister-in-law’s story with them, Tourville reflected, “Sharon was a teacher. She made an impact on a lot of people. She would have wanted this to be a teachable moment.”

Both men shared how essential AEDs are in their work, noting that every time a squad car goes out, there’s an AED in it. Chief Grim said, “The donation of these AEDs is so helpful to us.”

Officer Czarny told Tourville, “I can tell you personally that the AED you donated is on the road every day. If something were to come up, it is needed and it is there. These machines are invaluable.”

Chief Grim shared that Marquette County officers are trained once every year in the use of AEDs. He commented, “If you have people who can understand how to use the equipment, you can save lives. When we show up on a scene, people expect us to know what to do. It’s our job to know what to do. These AEDs make our lives a lot easier. They give guidance to us as we hook them up and walk us through [the process].”

Every AED funded in the campaign has a small plaque with the donors’ names, including the Tourville Family’s. Chief Grim commented, “We live in a small town, and we recognize the names [on the plaques] sometimes. I like the plaques. They’re a good reminder to the officers how important the AEDs are and that they mean something to somebody.”

“We strongly believe in supporting our community,” Tourville responded. “Thank you for letting me come and talk. Today would mean a lot to Sharon.”

Expressing the Department’s gratitude, Chief Grim told her, “A lot of people don’t reach out to us like this. This is the first time I’ve had a conversation with someone who’s a donor.” This conversation clearly meant something to everyone in the room.

Celebrating the Joy of Clean Laundry

Celebrating the Joy of Clean Laundry

North Star Montessori Academy students, who are enjoying the school’s
brand new laundry room, made a sign to thank the Community Foundation
and the donor who sponsored the project.

Finding solutions to community needs, whether they’re large or small, usually takes time, hard work and persistence. Sometimes, generosity from unexpected places helps a lot, too.

Last November, the Community Foundation received a funding request from North Star Montessori Academy for a small, but important need. North Star is a Pre-K-12 public school in Marquette.

In 2019, Megan Coombs, a Pathways to Potential Success Coach employed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, noticed that some students came to school with clothes that hadn’t been washed or that had already been worn during the week. While most of us take being able to do our laundry for granted, Coombs noted, “Some families do not have the means to buy a washer and dryer or even to go to a laundromat.”

What finally drove the need home for her was a third-grade student and her sibling, a first grader, who often came to school with dirty clothes or clothes that didn’t fit them. She reached out to the students’ family and learned about the specific hardships and challenges they were dealing with. She knew she had to do something to address the school’s need for an on-site laundry room.

North Star serves a large number of families (56%) that are economically disadvantaged. In Marquette County, the overall poverty rate is 13.6 percent (an income of $27,750 or less for a family of four). Poverty means not being able to meet some of your family’s basic needs, including laundry.

North Star Students with Pathways to Potential Coach Megan Coombs (left), Superintendent/Principal Andrea Ballard (center) and Dean of Students Dave Gilbert (right).

With support from the school’s administrative staff, Coombs decided to raise funds to purchase a washer, dryer and utility sink for the school. The school first had to apply for a permit to install the appliances. In September 2021, North Star finally got the thumbs up to proceed with the project.

Coombs turned to the Community Foundation to fund the project, and the timing was perfect. Zosia Eppensteiner, Community Foundation CEO explained, “We were able to connect with an anonymous donor, for whom the project was a good fit.” She continued, “By connecting a possible donor with a need, we can have an immediate impact on families and children right away — like the students at North Star. What’s amazing with our work at the Community Foundation is we often discover there’s a network of people and relationships who will be supportive around the needs of the community. And you never know what people in the community will connect with.”

To complete the project, Coombs reached out to another donor to pay for the cost of plumbing. After supply chain and other delays, the washer and dryer finally arrived and were installed earlier this month. The kids and the staff at North Star are celebrating their new laundry room, which is decorated with thank you notes to the donors.

Coombs said, “This project has been a labor of love, from October 2019, when I first inquired about adding a washer and dryer into the school, until it finally being completed on April 14. In the first week we’ve had it, it’s already been used four or five times. I’m super thankful that the donation came in to purchase the washer and dryer [so that we are able] to fulfill the needs of the children that are here.”

Andrea Ballard, superintendent and principal at North Star added, “I think it’s wonderful. It’s something we’ve discussed for many years and for it to actually happen is great for our school and our students.”

What Will Waino Bring?

What Will Waino Bring?

Waino Liuha receives an award from United Way of Marquette County
Campaign Co-Chair Walt Lindala, in 2006. 

When you ask people in the community what they remember about Waino Liuha, they light up. Waino may have passed in 2013, but his spirit is still alive, continuing to inspire everyone who knew him.In his 87 years of living, Waino was many things: A miner, husband and father, veteran, union president, social worker, churchgoer, volunteer and raffle-ticket seller. In everything he did, Waino’s goodness was apparent to all.Virginia Paulson, a trustee with the Negaunee Historical Society and member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Negaunee where Waino was also a member, remembered, “When I asked Waino to bring something for coffee time after church, he’d always ask, ‘What will Waino bring?’” You could say that was the question that guided his life.“Everybody knows Waino was a good guy,” said Dave Hallgren, a friend and fellow Lions Club member who met Waino at Immanuel. Hallgren continued, “Waino was always such a giving person. He was always ready to help people. That was his personality. He was visiting people, raising money, active at church, and involved with the Ishpeming Kiwanis and Negaunee Lions.”Born in Wakefield, Michigan in 1925 to Arvo and Lempi (Kangas) Liuha, Waino lived in Negaunee for most of his life. A U.S. Army veteran, he served in WWII from 1944-1946. He moved to Negaunee in 1951 and worked at the Tracy Mine from 1951-1964, serving as union president for eight of his 13 years as a miner. He was married in 1957 to Joanne, a teacher and volunteer. In 1961, their daughter Katherine was born.

Waino (standing, far left) with his mine shaft crew at Tracy Mine, in the 1950s.Photo: Negaunee Historical Society

 Thanks to a program at the mine, Waino was able to work and go to college at the same time. He went to Northern Michigan University (NMU) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1964. That same year, he began working with the VFW as an assistant department service officer. From 1966-1992, he worked for the Marquette County Department of Social Services, first with Child Welfare, and later, Adult Services. Waino earned a master’s degree in education at NMU in 1973.As a volunteer and board member, Waino was involved with many organizations, including the United Way of Marquette County, the Central UP Food Bank, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), VFW Post 3165, D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, the Community Fund of Negaunee, Thrivent, and many others. He devoted a great deal of his time to assisting disabled veterans, as well as helping local veterans enroll in assistance programs.No tribute to Waino would be complete without a mention of his legendary gift for selling raffle tickets. He was never without raffle tickets in his front pocket. Hallgren noted, “Waino was a great ticket seller. At our Lions Club, we have a big pancake breakfast every year, and Waino and I would always have a contest to see who could sell the most tickets. Waino always won.”  It’s not surprising that Waino won many awards for his work and volunteerism. Funny thing was, Waino didn’t care about awards. He just wanted to do good things. Hallgren remembered one occasion where he was given an award for being an outstanding social worker in Marquette County. He recalled, “Waino was very humble. He accepted the award and said, ‘Thank you very much. I don’t deserve this. I have a bunch of tickets to sell, so that’s the end of my speech.’ That was Waino.”Waino’s sense of stewardship showed up in every part of his life, including each week at church when the offering plate was passed. Hallgren, one of the offering “counters” at Immanuel, remarked, “We noticed Waino was a very, very generous person with his finances. Nobody wanted to get Waino’s check – it usually had a list of about eight different things he wanted his money to go to.” In addition to everything else, Waino was intentional in his giving.In 2007, Waino established the Waino and Joanne Liuha Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Marquette County, following the death of his wife, Joanne, in 2001. The primary purpose of the Fund is “to provide financial assistance to graduating seniors of Negaunee High School who will be pursuing certification or a degree at an institution of higher education and who have financial need.”  Zosia Eppensteiner, CEO of the Community Foundation, said, “The story of Waino is a story of generosity and community. Waino valued education, and the establishment of the scholarship fund and the recent generous support through his estate are helping seniors from Negaunee High School continue their education. This fund will grow even more as a resource for students in need of financial assistance in the future. Waino’s legacy of giving continues.”Dave Hallgren summed up Waino’s life and legacy, by saying, “That was Waino’s mission in life – to be a servant. To help people. He set such a good example on how to live.” A special thanks to everyone who contributed photographs and information for this article: Dave Dompierre, Negaunee Historical Society; Dave and Judy Hallgren; Virginia Paulson, Negaunee Historical Society; Andrew Rickauer, United Way of Marquette County; Russell Ault; and Walt Lindala, Media Brew.

Ray Leverton: A Lifetime of Service

Ray Leverton: A Lifetime of Service

Ray Leverton with Jason Chapman, Ishpeming City Council member, displaying the tribute from the State of Michigan recognizing Ray for his lifelong service to the community.
Photo courtesy of the City of Ishpeming

Ishpeming lost one of its dearest community members on December 27, 2021. Ray Leverton, 92, was the quintessential community person — a volunteer and role model for everyone who wants to make a difference close to home.Ishpeming Mayor Lindsay Bean noted, “Ishpeming is a better place for having had Ray Leverton. His contributions, and his dedication to the community, are unmatched.”So beloved is Ray that the State of Michigan has designated September 9 as “Ray Day” — a day set aside “to be like Ray” and give back to the community. Ray was also presented with an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol, a State of Michigan flag that flew over the state Capitol, a certificate from U.S. Senator Gary Peters, and a State of Michigan tribute signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lieutentant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Senator Ed McBroom. The tribute was presented to Ray by State Representative Sara Cambensy.

Ray lived a life of service to others, including serving in the armed forces and being a volunteer director and curator at the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum. He was also a member of Ishpeming’s Noon Kiwanis Club, the Ishpeming High School Alumni Association, Ishpeming Hematites Booster Club and Bethany Lutheran Church. During the last decade, he spearheaded a campaign to make building improvements at the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library, raising nearly $600,000 for improving building accessibility, lighting, air conditioning and new windows.Ishpeming City Council Member Jason Chapman, shared, “Ray was a man of deep faith, both in God and in his fellow citizens. He knew the value of doing good work and he taught that to so many of us. I was one of the lucky ones who got to watch Ray at work for three decades. He worked with my cousin, the late Wes Wentela, and, my mom, at the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. One of the best things he ever said to me was ‘In 30 years of work, Wes and I never had an argument — we just got along and worked together to get the job done.’ That left a lasting impression on me — that as volunteers we should all work together and get the job done.”

One of Jason’s favorite memories of Ray is when they attended from the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame’s Scramble Golf Outing at Wawonowin Country Club a few years back. “I was hopeful that my partner would be someone that I knew, or that I would enjoy golfing with. To my wondrous surprise, I was paired with Ray. I got to listen to stories from his childhood, stories about his wife, Betty and his kids, and stories about the community. I also remember when we turned the corner from the back nine to the front, I had a bad hole going, but it just didn’t matter, because I was golfing with Ray.”“The community will miss Ray for his love, his decency and kindness towards others, and his selfless devotion to the city and school he loved. We are all better because of Ray, even those who didn’t meet him. He made the community better. It’s our job to pick up that mantle and continue to make Ishpeming a better place, because that’s what Ray would want. He sat many of us down in the past few years to discuss projects that he wanted to see finished, so it’s our job to ensure we honor him and make them a reality.”

Special thanks to Ishpeming Mayor Lindsay Bean and Council Member Jason Chapman for their contributions to this story. 

Six Feet Over Recognizes Suicide Survivors Fund as Model

Six Feet Over Recognizes Suicide Survivors Fund as Model

Katie Hardy, executive director, Six Feet Over; Zosia Eppensteiner, CEO, CFMC;
and Dave Aro, who established the Marquette County Suicide Survivors Support Fund.

Six Feet Over, a nonprofit based in Detroit that provides suicide support and prevention services, recently acknowledged the Community Foundation of Marquette County for its role in establishing the Suicide Survivors Fund in a 2022 newsletter (article shared below):

“Six Feet Over wants to give special recognition to the folks in Marquette County who have set up an incredible fund to support suicide loss survivors in their county, now called the Suicide Survivors Fund.

Dave Aro, the founder of the project, saw a need in his community after the loss of a friend and neighbor. Dave worked with Zosia Eppensteiner, the CEO of the Community Foundation of Marquette County, to create this fund, which provides financial assistance for families in Marquette County to cover after-death costs, including emergency clean-up costs.

Six Feet Over has had the honor of collaborating with these fine folks through our Lemon Aid program to provide additional assistance and supports for those impacted by suicide in Marquette County. Many thanks to the efforts of Dave, Zosia and the entire advisory board, as well as donors to the fund, for helping to support suicide loss survivors!

If you’re interested in discussing how you might be able to bring a similar program to your community, please reach out to info@sixftover.org and include “community fund” in the subject line.”