2021 Annual Celebration Honors Community Who Make a Difference

2021 Annual Celebration Honors Community Who Make a Difference

The 2021 Annual Celebration will take place at NMU on Wednesday, September 22. The evening will include Catalyst Awards presentations, prize drawings from Donckers and the Delft, the first Range Bank Clean Energy Grant award, and a special announcement for the Jumpstart a Heart project.

“The Annual Celebration is a way for the Community Foundation staff and Board of Trustees to say thank you,” says CEO Zosia Eppensteiner. “We thank the donors, businesses and funders who invest in our community, and the people and organizations who work tirelessly to make Marquette County a place that helps all citizens thrive.”

Each year, the Board of Trustees nominate individuals, organizations, and businesses to receive Catalyst Awards. These awards recognize the efforts of those that help build community through volunteerism or philanthropy and inspire others to do the same. Four awards will be presented at this year’s Annual Celebration.

The Range Bank Clean Energy grant, which was established this year to assist non-profits with investing in energy saving projects and education, will be presented to Lake Superior Lifecare & Hospice. The grant will help the organization complete an energy saving insulation project. Range Bank President and CEO Roxanne Daust will present the grant to Lake Superior Lifecare & Hospice CEO Jennifer Voegtline.

Earlier this year, the Community Foundation partnered with the Marquette County Law Enforcement Administrator’s Association (MCLEAA) with the goal to raise over $81,000 to replace outdated lifesaving equipment carried by law enforcement. The effort, called Jumpstart a Heart, will allow MCLEAA to purchase 38 Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) for law enforcement across the county.

Thanks to the many generous donors that included several individuals and businesses, the fundraising goal was met. Grants from West End Health Foundation, Frazier Fund, Ray and Peg Hirvonen Foundation, Superior Health Foundation, Negaunee Area Community Fund, and Marquette Area Community Fund made a major impact helping the project reach its goal. Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt and Corporal Jennifer Best will represent MCLEAA at the Annual Celebration to accept the grant. While this project was fully funded, the Annual Celebration will include a special announcement of ways the community can continue to support future AED needs in Marquette County.

Johanna Pohjala Fund for Weavers : Fund Spotlight

Johanna Pohjala Fund for Weavers : Fund Spotlight

A loom made by Matt Riihinen in Negaunee during the winter of 1945-1946.
Photo courtesy of Christine Simonen

This loom has a fascinating history, and helped inspire the Johanna Pohjala Fund for Weavers, a field of interest fund established at the Community Foundation of Marquette County in 2003.

Johanna Pohjala (1919 – 2003) was born on Case Street in Negaunee. Her parents, Anna (Kotka) and Matt Riihinen were Finnish immigrants who settled on the Riihinen farm in Negaunee. Like so many immigrants to the area at the time, Matt worked in the iron mines to supplement their income from the farm. During the Finnish-Russian War in 1939, Matt received numerous donations of secondhand clothing from customers along his dairy route. The Riihinen’s sent as much as they could to Finland, but much of it was of poor quality. Anna requested a loom to make rag rugs with the clothing. Matt, who was also a blacksmith and woodworker, built the loom almost entirely from lumber harvested on their property over the winter of 1945-1946.

Johanna was Matt and Anna’s only child, and she graduated from Negaunee High School in 1937. She married Sulo E.Pohjala in 1941, and ten years later they moved to the Riihinen farm to help care for her parents. Johanna began weaving on the loom in 1952, and this began a journey of over 50 years weaving rugs on this loom.


Johanna Pohjala on the loom in 1954. Photo courtesy of Christine Simonen

As a toddler, Johanna spent over a year traveling in Finland with her parents and stayed in contact with her Finnish cousins. Her Finnish background influenced her weaving, and the more she created, the more her craftsmanship was widely recognized. Orders for Johanna’s rugs came from all over the U.P. and the country. As a member of the local weaving guild, Yarnwinders, Johanna explored different techniques and patterns in her rugs. In September 2000, Johanna was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the U.P. Weavers Exchange annual conference.


Johanna Pohjala, Rosepath Rug, Collection Michigan State University Museum

In the 1990’s Michigan State University Professor Yvonne Lockwood travelled to the Upper Peninsula to interview rug weavers. Her research was published as a book titled, “Finnish American Rag Rugs: Art, Tradition & Ethnic Continuity”. MSU Press published the book in 2010. Johanna was one of eight weavers featured in the chapter titled, “Weavers”. The Michigan State University Museum holds some of Johanna’s rugs in their textile collection.

Johanna was also a poet, educator, and traveler. A charter member of the Finnish Language Class in Negaunee, Johanna served as a substitute for well-known Finnish language educator Tanya Stanaway. Three more trips to Finland allowed Johanna to stay close to her Finnish family and heritage. She was a translator of family histories and correspondence for several different Finnish families. She was also a published poet, writing in both English and Finnish.

Christine Simonen, Johanna’s daughter, established the Johanna Pohjala Fund for Weavers at the Community Foundation of Marquette County in 2003 after her mother’s passing. The purpose of the fund is to create opportunities, for fiber artists and fiber arts education in Marquette County. This fund has supported Yarnwinders and Lake Superior Art Association to create educational programs and exhibitions around the tradition of weaving.


Christine Simonen (bottom right) with her husband Fred after delivering the loom to The Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum in 2017. At left are Karen Greenly (standing) and Robyn Sendelbach (sitting).

And what about the loom? Christine took up her mother’s interest in weaving but knew the loom needed a permanent home that would fully appreciate and care for this historically significant artifact. In 2017, the family donated the loom to The Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum, in Vista, California. The Museum is a nonprofit that “collects, preserves and displays examples of mechanical ingenuity and crafts associated with the early days of the American farm and rural community”. The loom is on permanent display with over 50 other looms from all over the country. The loom is still fully operational, and is utilized for demonstrations by museum volunteer weavers.

COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grant Provides Support for PPE Needs in Marquette County Schools

COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grant Provides Support for PPE Needs in Marquette County Schools

COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grant Provides Support for PPE Needs in Marquette County Schools

Through a collaborative effort with local school districts, the Community Foundation of Marquette County and United Way of Marquette County recently announced a grant to Marquette-Alger Regional Education Service Agency (MARESA) to support the purchase of personal protective equipment, including masks, for Marquette County schools. The $7,400 grant was made possible by the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which is administered by the Community Foundation in partnership with United Way of Marquette County.

“These types of collaborative efforts have a meaningful impact in our community,” says Andrew Rickauer, Executive Director of United Way of Marquette County. “I am really pleased to be part of helping our local youth so that they are safe and can return to in person learning.”

The grant will allow MARESA will coordinate a bulk order of PPE, including masks, after the schools expressed a need as they prepare for the school year.

“After hearing there was a need for PPE in Marquette County schools, we were able to utilize funds from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund to assist,” says Community Foundation CEO Zosia Eppensteiner.   “With much uncertainty going into this school year, our hope is that this grant allows the schools to be prepared if the PPE is needed. Collaborating among organizations to provide a quick response to a community need is exactly what the Community Response Fund was set up to do.”

The COVID-19 Community Response fund was established in 2020 to support the needs of the community and nonprofits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, over $178,000 has been raised and over $160,000 in grants have been distributed. Grants have supported the community in a multitude of ways, from purchasing food for senior meal programs, to at-home craft kits for youth, to supplies for organizations assisting homeless populations.

Jackson Mine Park Pavilion Opens : Grant Spotlight

Jackson Mine Park Pavilion Opens : Grant Spotlight

Jackson Mine Park Pavilion Opens : Grant Spotlight

This past month the City of Negaunee held a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of the pavilion building in Jackson Mine Park. The project has been in the works since 2012, with a total cost of $485,000. Funds and grants have been raised over the past seven years (2012-2019), including a grant from the Negaunee Area Community Fund. The project “broke ground” in 2019, after the City was awarded a grant through the DNR, fulfilling the resources needed for the project.

The finished building consists of a large, covered picnic area and restrooms, with plans of adding on a kitchen area. The project also included an on-site parking lot. The pavilion, which is located off the Iron Ore Heritage trail, on Tobin Street in Downtown Negaunee, is open to the public and available to reserve for private events through the City of Negaunee.

Projects like this show the opportunities that become feasible when our grantmaking abilities are utilized to their fullest potential. When we work together, we can achieve greater goals. By helping organizations leverage funding, we engage as partners in larger projects which then have a greater impact in our community.

Range Bank Clean Energy Fund

Range Bank Clean Energy Fund

Range Bank Clean Energy Fund

Grants from the Range Bank Clean Energy Fund support energy transition programs and initiatives in Marquette County including, but not limited to, greater reliance on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, reductions in energy demand through a variety of energy efficiency improvements.

Applicants must be qualified nonprofit organizations serving Marquette County. No grants are made to individuals, private foundations, or for-profit enterprises. The maximum grant amount is $5,000.

Projects can include physical improvements (e.g. LED lighting/exit Signs, occupancy sensors, insulation, solar, battery storage, level II EV charging ) and/or non-physical activities (e.g. community engagement, education). 

2021 APPLICATIONS ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED. Please join our email list or check back in 2022. 

History of the Clean Energy Initiative

Michigan is in the midst of a major energy transition, which includes greater reliance on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and reductions in energy demand through a variety of energy efficiency improvements. This “clean energy” transition presents opportunities and challenges that are felt acutely at the community level. Community foundations are well-positioned to help successfully address such challenges and opportunities.

With a 2018 grant from Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation of Marquette County created energy information materials, developed three demonstration sites that illustrate energy efficiency and renewable energy practices, and convened an energy awareness community event.

These outreach efforts served to educate the community on the benefits of clean energy, share environmental and economic benefits documented from project demonstration sites. Key partners of the Initiative included the Superior Watershed Partnership, Michigan Energy Options and Range Bank.

Over $100,000 in Grants to Local Nonprofits Awarded

Over $100,000 in Grants to Local Nonprofits Awarded

The Community Foundation of Marquette County, including four affiliate funds – Negaunee, Greater Ishpeming, Marquette, and Gwinn Area – recently granted over $100,000 as part of the annual competitive grant cycle.

Of the total grant funding, over $25,000 was awarded to programs related to human services. Over $21,000 was awarded to environment and recreation. Over $17,000 was awarded to arts, culture, and music. Over $15,000 was awarded to youth and education. Over $14,000 was awarded to health. Over $5,000 was awarded to community improvement. This grant cycle included funds from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund to support nonprofits that continue to navigate organizational and operational needs from ongoing pandemic response.

2021 grantees included Willow Farm Therapeutic Riding program, which received funds to replace expired helmets for youth involved in the program. The grant was made possible by the Stephen Blondeau Memorial Fund, which was established at the Community Foundation in 1996 to support projects related to youth safety in the Upper Peninsula.

Willow Farm Therapeutic Riding volunteer Luanne Peterson said, “As an affiliate program of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, horseback riding helmets are a safety requirement that we continue to adhere to. PATH International requires all participants to wear protective headgear that is American Society for Testing and Materials – Safety Equipment Institute (ASTM-SEI) certified. Depending on the amount of use, riding helmets hold the ASTM-SEI certification for 3 – 5 years after they are purchased. This grant will allow the program to provide required safety gear for youth and continue to follow PATH International’s protocols for safety.”

Volunteers from each of the Community Foundation’s affiliate fund form committees to review applications and recommend grants to the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Grant distribution events were recently held for the Ishpeming, Negaunee and Marquette affiliates to celebrate the grantees making an impact on residents of Marquette County. A final grant distribution event will be held on July 4 in Gwinn at The Up North Lodge. This event is part of the popular Bike Night event series and is a fundraiser for the Gwinn Area Community Fund.