Members of the Francis H. Haserot Legacy Society
Larry Coppard and Susan Ager
Larry Coppard and Susan Ager never visited Northport after a great B-and-B weekend there in 1986 - until they returned 16 years later, discovered the one-time inn was for sale, and bought it. It proved to be a perfect solution to a dilemma that had them wanting nearby water, nature, and community, please the ability to continue their work in philanthropy (him) and journalism (her).
For years Susan wrote her Detroit Free Press column from their new old home, and rebuilt an organic garden its previous owner had begun. Meanwhile, Larry drove back and forth to Detroit, where he served as Senior Consultant at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the state's largest. Seven years ago, after retiring, he was able to accept a board position for the Leelanau Township Community Foundation, where he has led its efforts to encourage locals to remember the Foundation in their estate plans.
The couple, married thirty years, currently make an annual gift to the Foundation's General Endowment. Their legacy gift will insure that at least that level of giving will continue when they are gone. Larry says, "The General Endowment is how the Foundation is able to respond to the changing issues facing the community year after year and we want to support that." On top of that, they will make a gift to the Leelanau Township Public Library's endowment fund at the Foundation.
In addition to including the Foundation in their estate plan, they have designated gifts to other local, Detroit, and national charities, while not shortchanging their families. They have high hopes that Leelanau Township will thrive as a potential home for diverse families who want a village to help raise their children with security, stimulation, and beauty.
Susan says, "it's only right to give back to the place that has become our hearts' home." Larry agrees.
dick and sue lang
Dick and Sue Lang began their 46-year relationship with Leelanau Township with weekend stays in an old shack on 15 acres of land, with a jerry-rigged septic system that included a toilet mounted on a buried 55-gallon drum. Now, they live full-time in a beautiful house on the bay in Northport.
In between, Dick and Susan raised up three children and 2,350 sour cherry trees, while Dick also made a living as a lawyer, first with a law firm in Kalamazoo, then as General Counsel of Wolverine Power Cooperative in Cadillac, then practicing law part time from an office in his barn and then in his home in Northport. The orchard, they say, "was a side project," intended to help them finance their kids' college educations. "That was a joke!" says Susan, who became a certified pesticide applicator to help out on the farm.
Involved in many ways with the tiny village, Dick serving on boards, Susan involved in the arts, they've now decided to keep on giving back when they're gone. Dick had served on the Leelanau Township Community Foundation board of trustees for a few years and given it pro bono legal advice. Dick and Susan have included the LTCF in their estate plan for a simple reason. Says Dick, "I like what it's done, especially that it started with a $35,000 donation in 1945 and now has over $4 million."
"It has helped fund so many things that were instrumental in improving our area, things we needed to do, with the sewer being Number One," he said. "The new sewer system probably gave us the golf course, the brewery, the hotel and the Tribune. The whole atmosphere is improved."
The couple vividly remembers being "smitten" with the area, then grieving the closing of the Matheson Greens Golf Course in 2000 and, four years later, the Leelanau Memorial Hospital, where Susan worked in its long-term care section. "Those were two big blows," Dick says, "but we've come back from our low of a few years ago." Still on their wish list: A more complete medical clinic, with longer hours. Both also support improving the library, while keeping it downtown.
"I don't want to change Northport to be pro-growth," says Dick, "but I'd like to see a nice and attractive community to live in and visit, and I think we're edging that way."
Scott and ruth steele walker
When Scott Walker encountered Ruth Steele as a young man, he also fell hard for Leelanau Township, where her family has lived for four generations. He remembers: "It was like meeting Ruth: Love at first sight."
Today, almost 40 years after their marriage, Scott and Ruth Steele Walker are semi-retired in the same Omena home overlooking Grand Traverse Bay where Ruth's father was born. After countless hours of volunteer devotion to this area, they have decided to name as a benefactor in their will the Leelanau Township Community Foundation, whose aim is to protect and improve the very tip of Michigan's Little Finger.
Ruth is pretty sure the Foundation helped pay for her snappy woolen Northport High School band uniforms, and remembers that her father, Verlin Steele, served on its board in from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, and her mother, Catherine Steele, served an additional 19 years. But, she says, "There's no way my father, mother, or anyone, no matter how bright or well-meaning, could have imagined what Northport has become, with both ups and downs. For example, affordable housing is a big issue now. When I was a kid, there were empty homes in Northport. Nobody was buying up and reinventing them as vacation rentals, pricing out people of more modest means."
Ruth served 19 years on the Foundation board, the last as chair, and it was as a board member she became aware of the power of what's called "legacy giving," naming a foundation in an estate plan. Despite many huge achievements in its 70-year history, "there's so much more we can do," Ruth says. The economic crisis of 2008 cost the Foundation, and it's now working to grow the pot from which it makes grants.
"Just because you live in an idyllic area does not mean everyone's life is idyllic. There are huge needs here. This is a way for people to give back without having to neglect the areas they came from. I often point to Grand Rapids, where we lived for decades, and where the old billionaires club got together to rebuild that city: Meijer, DeVos, Van Andel. We don't have a lot of people here who have that kind of money, which means the rest of us need to jump in and do something in our own small way.
"It will be put to good use. I remember my dad coming home complaining of certain people on the board who wanted to save up the Foundation's money. He told them: 'It's not doing any good if we're not giving it away.'"
Gene and Kathy Garthe
In the 1860s, Gene Garthe's Norwegian ancestors settled hundred of acres near the budding town of Northport, cutting its trees to fuel Lake Michigan freighters. Garthes have populated this place ever since, most recently protecting and preserving it.
Today, Gene and Kathy Garthe live in his great-grandfather's house, tend his ancestors' fields and orchards and watch sunsets against the same horizon.
Growing up, remembers Gene, "there was never any money to support anything" but the church, Bethany Lutheran. As the years went by, Gene and Kathy took the giving habit into the larger community in appreciation of the many organizations that make Leelanau Township a wonderful place to live. They became supporters of various local non-profits, including and especially the Leelanau Township Community Foundation, which they have named in their estate plan.
Says Gene: "This is our way of tithing for the greater community."
Kathy was asked to join the LTCF board in 1997 when she became CEO of Northport's Memorial Hospital. "It hadn't been on my radar before," she admits, but the hospital counted on grants from it for new technology. She and Gene have supported it annually ever since, along with 9 other mostly-local non-profits that promote sound agriculture and a strong sense of place. She rejoined the board in 2015, after retiring as a vice-president from Munson Health Care.
Says Gene, "I want to see quality of life maintained here. We have a lot available to the common person - beaches and tennis courts and parks, regardless of their income. But we've got to figure out how people can live here without making a whole lot of money."
"Why leave a gift to the Foundation?" adds Kathy. "We know the Foundation connects with and strengthens with all other non-profits that support our community. And at this point in our lives, what we leave as a legacy matters as much as what we do day to day."
Joan Moore says she has "small towns in my blood," having grown up in one of Michigan's Thumb. But for over seven years, she has metaphorically invested her own blood into the future of Northport, as the executive director of its Leelanau Township Community Foundation.
As an administrative assistant at Michigan State University for 20 years, she and her family took vacations near Traverse City, always exploring the entire Leelanau Peninsula, and finally settling on Northport as a spot for a future home. Fifteen years ago, after she moved here, mere coincidence drew her to the Foundation: As an administrative assistant at Northport's Leelanau Memorial Hospital, she was asked by a Foundation board member to take minutes at meetings. Listening and taking notes taught her the essence of the 70-year-old charitable organization. When it needed an executive director, she stepped up.
Now, she has left a bequest to the Foundation through its Legacy program, as a gift to its unrestricted general endowment. "I know up close and personal the careful consideration the board gives to each grant request, and have faith in it to continue to do so," she said. She's also glad she has been able "to make the decision ahead of time, and to know that it will be easier on my family to know what my wishes are."
She imagines Northport as a reliably charming home for people of all ages, from young families to seniors, and cheers its efforts to increase its economic vitality through business, amenities, recreational activities and in other ways. That leads to jobs while highlighting a need for more affordable housing. She says "These are the areas I would like to see funded," both in her term, and well into the future.
David and Louise Lutton
Almost 20 years ago, David and Louise Lutton bought a piece of Leelanau Township history. Their log home on the Garthe Bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan was built in 1920 as a 35-seat restaurant, staffed by Garthe family women and supplied with produce and meat by Garthe family men, all farmers.
Today the Luttons, who live most of the year in Ann Arbor, are investing in the future of the tip of the Little Finger. Last summer they met with Joan Moore, Executive Director of the Leelanau Township Community Foundation, to make their first annual donation and to create an end-of-life gift.
David, the president of Reinhart Realty, the biggest in Washtenaw County, says he's come to believe after all his travels that Leelanau County is "one of the special places in America. You can turn up equally nice ones, but I don't know one better. And in a lot of those place, the economics are appalling," shutting out all but the wealthy. He calls Northport, "our village of choice," preferring its less tony history, shops, and tourists.
"I know the economy of your area," David says, "and it's not enough to support a multi-million foundation. So we summer people need to step up, too."
After a quarter-century's experience fundraising for Ann Arbor causes, including a decade on its community foundation's board and committees, David knows that persuading well-wishers to leave money to pay for who-knows-what when they're no longer around is the toughest fund-raising of all. "It's just not as sexy," he says. "Most people want immediate gratification. But to really meet long-term obligations, and have the flexibility to meet the new needs you need legacy donations to the General Endowment."
What the pair appreciate most about the Foundation's past is its support for the sewer system, installed in 2008, and for the Northport Community Arts Center. Louise is an arts teacher and the couple say Northport "plays about its weight culturally" because of the NCAC.
Their grown sons "will always be comfortable," David says, despite the Lutton's philanthropy, which includes a donor-advised fund at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. "We didn't grow up as rich kids, and we don't want to leave rich kids behind."
Jim and Marjorie leenhouts
Jim Leenhouts named his 42-foot power catamaran "Catalyst." The retired development chemist of Dow Chemical knows that catalysts, as he says, "make things happen."
He is a catalyst, too. Along with his wife, Marge, he has named the Leelanau Township Community Foundation in their will. The bequest will help make things happen into the future.
Making things happen runs in his family. Grandfather Orin A. Ward founded Northport Point in 1899. The couple, in their mid-80s, live at the Point and in Key Largo, Florida.
"If you invest a lot of your time and energy to live here - and you don't have to live here - this area must appeal to you," he says. "It's terrific, but it can be better. You shouldn't stop giving to the library or the Children's Center or whatever turns you on. But it's good to give to the umbrella organization, too - the community foundation."
The LTCF has been named as a beneficiary in the Leenhouts' trust since 1991. It is one of the handful of non-profits that will share 10 percent of the couples' charitable contributions, what Jim calls the "do good" portion of their legacy.
The couple's legacy bequest to the Foundation is unspecified. That is, the board may decide how to use it because Jim says he simply wants the money to go to "where others may see the priorities better."