Saginaw Bay Conference, September 27


As part of the Foundation’s extended commitment to the Shiawassee River, we are proud to help sponsor the State of the Bay Conference on September 27.  The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) — of which the Cook Family Foundation is a long-time member — is convening the event.  To register go to

The Shiawassee River forms the southern border of the the Saginaw Bay watershed, the largest watershed in the State of Michigan. It covers 8,700 acres in all or part of 22 counties and is home to 1.4 million people.  The Shiawassee River connects to four other rivers in and around the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge to form the Saginaw River.  The health of the land and the streams and rivers that drain them determine the health of Saginaw Bay, historically important as a fishery and as home to diverse and migrating wildlife.

The State of the Bay Conference brings together people and organizations that work to conserve and restore Saginaw Bay and the lands that make up its watershed.  Attendees will have the chance to learn what communities throughout the watershed are doing to encourage public access, economic development, environmental education and watershed management.  After the conference, there will be an opportunity to sail out on the Bay aboard BaySail’s Appledore schooner.

Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) brings together foundations, governments, businesses, environmental organizations, and other partners to improve the quality of life in the area and develop the region’s identity as a sustainable community. Expertise is shared to develop and fund on-the-ground projects in the areas of agriculture and pollution prevention, wildlife stewardship, water resources, land use, and environmental sustainability.  The Cook Family Foundation is one of WIN’s 11 funding partners and has contributed financial support since 1999.  Review the activities, studies, and recent grants of WIN at their website 

Water quality and agricultural run-off has long been a focus of the Cook Family Foundation grants.  In addition to support for Saginaw Bay WIN, grants have been provided to the Friends of the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy, and other local partners.  You can read about our most recent work in the Shiawassee River in our 2017 Newsletter (click here).

Saginaw Bay Watershed. No till field and barn. Photo credit: © Michael D-L Jordan

The most significant grants of the Foundation in the last few years have been to The Nature Conservancy to support their innovative work with the agricultural community in parts of Saginaw Bay.  This effort is powered by significant federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) authorized in the Farm Bill.  The project has helped farmers put in place conservation practices to reduce soil erosion and polluted run-off.  It brings new technology, in-field scientific assessments, and the opportunity to work with crop advisors and conservation districts.  The Cook Family Foundation has provided funding to conduct research into how agricultural providers and practitioners make decisions; the results will help conservation groups know how best to reach and work with farmers.  You can watch a video and learn more about the project from The Nature Conservancy (click here).

Where and how fast water flows is fundamental knowledge for farmers, developers, and conservationists trying to build a sustainable economy.  The most recent grant commitment from the Cook Family Foundation is to help The Nature Conservancy study how water on the land can be better managed by Drain Commissioners, the masters of water flow in Michigan. The Foundation is helping provide matching funds to a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) that will involve test projects in Saginaw and Monroe Counties.  The goal of the project is to recognize and incentivize the establishment of conservation practices that improve the function or reduce the maintenance cost of publicly managed drain systems.

The Shiawassee River gives its name to the County where the Cook Family Foundation works for change. The River also connects us to Saginaw Bay and the Great Lakes, and it gives us a connection and appreciation of nature. We know that if we protect nature, we have the basis for a sustainable regional economy, and will enhance the quality of life for the residents of our community.  But conservation cannot be a solo act and it takes a larger and long term view.  Our work with Saginaw Bay WIN and The Nature Conservancy give us both partners and perspective.

Leaders and Best of Shiawassee County


Elizabeth Hoornstra, of Chesaning, with Bruce and Jacqueline Cook

Again, the Cook Family Foundation is providing a scholarship to every high school senior from the greater Shiawassee County region attending the University of Michigan.  This fall, 19 young men and women from nine area high schools will enroll at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The future Wolverines were recognized at a dinner on May 8.  Special guest at the event was Andrew Martin, Dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LS&A) at the University of Michigan.  Noting the talented scholarship recipients, the Dean said that “all of the students we admit to the University of Michigan bring a unique combination of talent, goals, ambitions, personality and passion.”

At the dinner, Elizabeth Hoornstra, the valedictorian of Chesaning Union High School, was awarded the Bruce & Jacqueline Cook Scholarship.  This four-year, full tuition scholarship is funded separately from the Foundation by its namesakes.  Elizabeth is the daughter of John and Jennifer Hoornstra, and plans to pursue a major in the social sciences, public health, or some other field where she can “create a difference in someone’s life.”


Hunter Glew, of Corunna, and Andrew Martin, Dean of LS&A

Hunter Glew, the valedictorian of Corunna High School, is the recipient of the Donald Cook Scholarship.  She intends to pursue research at the University of Michigan and major in neuroscience or psychology.  She is the daughter of Matthew and Cynthia Glew.

The Donald Cook Scholarship is awarded by the University of Michigan to a student
attending the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.  It has been financially supported by the Cook Family Foundation in recognition of the Foundation’s founder.  In 2017, the Foundation entered a multi-year funding agreement to endow the scholarship in perpetuity at the University.

Of the 19 scholarship recipients, seven of them are valedictorians.  In addition to Hoornstra and Glew, the co-valedictorians of Owosso High School (Usman Kahn and Sarah Landes) and the valedictorians of Perry (Jessica Beattie), Byron (Jordan Goodrich), and Laingsburg (Paden Graham) were all admitted to the University of Michigan.

Other scholarship winners were, from Chesaning, Sarah Minnis, Noah Moeggenberg, and Riley Russel; from Corunna, Kaylynn Crawford and Charity Cummings; from New Lothrop, Lauryn Bishop, Brayden Bitterman, Matthew Mignault, and Tyler Ruddy; from Owosso, Dalton Brown; and from Perry, Bradley Cronk and Destiny Crusan.

For more information on the Foundation’s scholarships, visit this page



Helping Local NonProfits Have an Impact


Executive Directors from Shiawassee-based nonprofits gather at Foster Coffee

The Cook Family Foundation believes that community change occurs when locally-based nonprofits have the motivation, the support, and the capacity to have an impact.  For several years we have worked with Shiawassee-based nonprofits to help improve their governance, strengthen their operations, and grow through strategic investments.  Ten of those nonprofits have been recognized as Partners for their commitment to capacity building (see a list of all the nonprofits we work with).

In order to help local nonprofits take the next step in their growth, the Cook Family Foundation announces the Innovation and Impact Grant program.  This intensive capacity building endeavor helps an organization take a stretch to realize a dream, review  internal structure, establish new partnerships, and invest in sustainable growth.  The grant process is competitive, and the first round of participants will be selected in April this year.

The NonProfit Capacity Building Program will continue to provide coaching, peer networking, and educational workshops for executive directors and board members.  Information and registration for upcoming sessions can be found on our Events Page.

If you are a board member of a local nonprofit, contact your executive director for information.  The requirements for organizational participation in the NonProfit Capacity Building Program are defined here.  For more information or assistance, please contact us.