President/CEO Carrie Pickett-Erway

As we begin a new year, I would like to share some thoughts that touch at the center of who we are as an organization.

Our work involves a deep and unique knowledge of the community. It requires us to not only plan for the future, but also address current needs. As stewards of great community resources — and being committed to continuous improvement — we ask ourselves, "Are we really making life better for all in Kalamazoo County?"

Did you know that 19 percent of Kalamazoo County residents live below the poverty line? We have 1,000 school-age children who are homeless. Nearly half, 48 percent, of our children are eligible for free or reduced school lunches. How is this possible in a community like Kalamazoo?

We also have amazing nonprofits, many of which are highlighted in our publications and on this website. And we’re considered one of the best community foundations in the nation. Yet, systemic challenges persist.

As we step back and analyze this reality, we realize that traditional grantmaking creates limited, if any, lasting impact. To change this grim reality, we must focus on deeply rooted causes behind issues like homelessness, infant mortality, violence, drop-outs and unemployment. We believe we can change the systems that perpetuate poor living conditions. With our community-wide focus on multiple issues, we are in the best position to do this. We are about this place and its people. Together, with you, we can change our future.

Finally, on behalf of our dedicated board of trustees and staff, thank you for all you do to make this community great. We recognize that many people contribute to the quality of life in this place we love. There is no better demonstration of community. Love where you live.