On Thursday, Oct. 10, the Dexter Community Fund Advisory Committee honored their donors with a harvest-themed event featuring delightful food and music at The Valley at Frutig Farms in Ann Arbor. A perfect fall evening, sunlight streamed into the restored 1840’s barn where guests enjoyed a strolling dinner catered by The Moveable Feast accompanied by the smooth sounds of a Community High jazz ensemble. The highlight of the evening was a brilliant performance by University of Michigan professor of vocal music, Stephen West.
The Dexter Community Fund (DCF) is a permanent endowment at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, “dedicated to addressing community needs and enriching the quality of life within the Dexter community.” Established in 2014, the DCF has grown to $531,000 through donations from area residents and local businesses. DCF awards grants from the interest accrued from the fund principal, which is invested in perpetuity and never touched. According DCF Advisory Committee Chair, Julie Schumaker, the endowment ensures “a lasting legacy which helps Dexter today, 10 years from now and 100 years from now.” Grants were first awarded in 2017, with past recipients including GrieveWell, Dexter Senior Center, Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, Dexter Area Historical Society (Gordon Hall), Faith in Action and His Eye is on the Sparrow.
Schumaker began her remarks to those gathered by expressing the Advisory Committee’s gratitude for the generous contributions of the fund’s donors. She continued with recognizing the evening’s sponsors*, saying that events such as these are in no way funded by donor contributions, but through the generosity of sponsorships by local businesses.
Schumaker shared that in 2018, the DCF Advisory Committee conducted a community needs assessment to guide their grant process. The highest priorities, as identified by a group of 30 community leaders, included services/programs for seniors, mental health services for youth and adults, improved outdoor recreational opportunities, services/programs for teens, services/programs for the homebound and programs to enhance arts and culture. In line with these findings, Schumaker announced the two DCF grants awarded for 2019 will go to the Dexter Community Players and The Center for Independent Living.
The Dexter Community Players grant will help fund their youth theater program, which serves children ages 5-17 in Dexter. The youth play this winter will be “James and the Giant Peach,” and the DCF grant will provide help to cover the cost of materials, space and personnel in order to keep participation fees affordable for local youth. Dexter Community Players President, Abby Briggs, expressed her gratitude saying, “Dexter Community Players is honored to receive a grant from the Dexter Community Fund. Our youth theater program is at the heart of our mission of education and community involvement. This grant will allow the next generation to grow in the arts and continue to tell a Dexter story.”
The Center for Independent Living will use their grant to expand their services for adults with disabilities in Dexter through a program called, “Together in Dexter.” This program will host events to decrease social isolation, as well as provide structures to build stronger relationships and support systems for adults with disabilities in our community.
Schumaker ended her remarks by announcing a $100,000 challenge match. A group of dedicated donors have pledged $100,000 that will match any donations or pledges received from October until December 31, 2019. With this challenge match, DCF has the potential to increase their fund value to over $700,000. Challenge match donors include The Daniel and Linda P. Chapman Trust, The Lundy Family, Carole and Ken Empey, Alex and Katie Wallace, Jamie and Tom Guise, Liz Pielsticker and Tim Shinn, Melissa and Jeff Joy, The Bob and Jan Lyons Foundation and one anonymous donor.
Capping the evening, bass-baritone Stephen West dazzled the crowd with a set of songs including “Stars” from Les Miserables, selections from South Pacific and a re-worded version of “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha. West connected his song choices to the concept of having dreams and reaching for the stars, which he felt coincided well with the mission of DCF.
Anyone in attendance at this appreciation event could feel the sense of community and love for Dexter throughout the room. This love of our town is shown by DCF’s donors and through the work of the Advisory Committee, as the fund has consistently grown and benefited many Dexter organizations over its 5 years of existence.
In Schumaker’s words, “There is a sense of rootedness, community, and home in Dexter that you can’t find in most communities, and we really value that.”
Anna Dusbiber, IL Youth Program & Peer Support Program Manager for the Center for Independent Living, said the organization is “very excited to receive support from the Dexter Community Foundation.”
She added: “We look forward to providing inclusive social activities for people with and without disabilities throughout Dexter and beyond.”
For more information about the Dexter Community Fund, including how to donate, visit their website at www.DexterComminityFund.org.