Recognizing Nonprofit Boards

Serving on the board of a local nonprofit may be one of the most important, under-recognized volunteer actions in any community.  Nonprofit board members guide community organizations, support their work, and help them achieve their mission. The Cook Family Foundation seeks to strengthen Shiawassee-based nonprofit organizations, and thus we support the work of nonprofit boards through our Nonprofit Capacity Building Program.

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Congratulations to the board of the Arc Shiawassee for their 100% participation in our recent survey contest.

Recently, we held a survey contest to gain the ideas of board members about what they wanted to know more about.  The 119 board members that responded identified three top concerns:

  1. Fund Development, to raise more support for their nonprofit
  2. Technology, to be able to respond to the changing times
  3. Effective Board Meetings, to make the most of their time together

In response to this survey, the Cook Family Foundation will be sponsoring two workshops from our partner, the Nonprofit Network.  These will be held October 22 and November 12 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Baker College Welcome Center, with refreshments provided. The first workshop is entitled Board Governance in the Digital Age; the second will be about Building a Better Board.  More details will be available soon, but reserve the dates now.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey; your feedback was very valuable.  Thank you for serving the community through your nonprofit board.

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Congratulations to the board of Respite Volunteers of Shiawassee for their 100% participation in our recent survey contest.


Fellows to Share Their Experiences

Do you need a new perspective on our community?  Sometimes we think we know all that we need to know about Owosso and Shiawassee County, the issues we need to deal with, and the organizations and people we work with.  At the Cook Family Foundation, our view is often refreshed when we talk with the next generation, and we are fortunate that several of our programs brings us that opportunity.

On July 31, six Owosso Fellows will be offering us a new perspective on our community.  For the last several weeks, these college students have been working for local organizations, doing several service projects, and learning about small town life. On Thursday, July 31, from 4-8 p.m. at the Jordan Gallery (118 N. Washington St. in Owosso), they will share “Conversations on Community: A Visual Journey.”  This will be a personal and collective expression of their experiences in Shiawassee County, something they have captured by taking a photo a day during their time here.  The Fellows will be in the gallery in an open house format, so stop by anytime.

The Cook Family Foundation’s Owosso Fellows program (see more info here) has brought together three of our local scholarship recipients attending the University of Michigan together with three students from Yale University.  From Michigan they are: Christian Van Epps, who has been working for the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership; Courtney Crawford, promoting early childhood health through Great Start Shiawassee; Emma Tompkins, an intern at the Shiawassee Arts Council.  The Yale students are: Mary Shi, who is helping plan pedestrian and bike improvements for the City of Owosso; Chloe Larkin, promoting tennis and fitness through the Shiawassee Family Y;  and Spencer Klavan, who is directing “Robin Hood” with the Owosso Community Players.

For more information contact the Foundation office at 989-725-1621


Welcome Fellows

Six college students are going to make an impact in Shiawassee County this summer.  The second class of Owosso Fellows, half who attended high school in the County and half from elsewhere, will be working for local organizations, undertaking several service projects, and learning about what makes a strong community.


This year’s fellows are, from left to right: Christian Van Epps, a University of Michigan Junior, will be working for the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership; Mary Shi, a recent graduate from Yale, will be helping plan pedestrian and bike improvements for the City of Owosso; Chloe Larkin, a Yale sophomore, will be promoting tennis and fitness through the Shiawassee Family Y; Courtney Crawford, finishing her first year at Michigan, will contribute to early childhood health through Great Start Shiawassee; Emma Tompkins, a Michigan sophomore, will be helping arrange the upcoming Seuss exhibit at the Shiawassee Arts Council; and Spencer Klavan, who just graduated from Yale, will be directing “Robin Hood” with the Owosso Community Players.

Returning as coordinator of the program is Owosso High and Yale alumna, Heather Rivard. In its second year, the Fellows program combines two goals of the Cook Family Foundation:  to support talented youth in their educational development, and to build the capacity of community organizations in Shiawassee County.

To learn more about the Fellows program, go here; to read testimonials from last year’s fellows, go here.

Scholarship Winners

The Cook Family Foundation recently recognized 25 students from the greater Shiawassee County area who are attending the University of Michigan this coming Fall.  All of them have been awarded scholarships from the Foundation, and several have received additional scholarships from the University.  In total, the scholarships awarded total $298,500.  In addition to these merit-based scholarships, many of these students are also receiving need-based financial aid.


Jackie and Bruce Cook present their scholarship to Nolan Wendling and his parents Lisa and Allan Wendling

The following students from nine local high schools have been awarded scholarships from the Cook Family Foundation.  Byron: Vanessa Kiefer; Chesaning: Jared Weisenberger;  Corunna: Nathan Dennison, Anthony Ferzo, Stephanie Rasmussen;  Durand: Madeline Dietrich, Tyler Lockhart; Laingsburg: Kirsten Johnson;  New Lothrop: Arman Jacob Aznavorian, Bryce Birchmeier, Taylor Krupp, Cody Symons, Nolan Wendling, Kyle White;  Ovid-Elsie: Logan Applebee, Hunter Charvat, Maureen Wiltsee;  Owosso: Jordan Bannan, Caitlin Harrell, David Hoffa, Janae Hurd, Geoffrey McClung, Madison Van Epps;  Perry: Alex Proudfoot, Taylor White

While all of these students are accomplished and at the top of their class, several students received special scholarships.  Nolan Wendling of New Lothrop received the Bruce & Jackie Cook Scholarship, a four-year full tuition scholarship to attend the UM Ross School of Business.  Kirsten Johnson of Laingsburg was awarded the Donald Cook Scholarship from UM’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts.  Jared Weisenberger of Chesaning was named one of the prestigious Shipman Scholars and will study mathematics at UM.  You can read more about the scholarships from the Cook Family Foundation (click here).


Tom Cook presents the Donald Cook Scholarship to Kirsten Johnson and her mother Brenda Johnson



The 1225 Back Under Steam

The Cook Family Foundation has awarded a $20,000 grant to the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso to contribute to the recent restoration of the 1225 Pere Marquette steam engine. This multi-year overhaul was necessary for the 1225 to gain Federal approval to carry passengers on its famous North Pole Express and other excursions.

The Steam Railroading Institute (SRI) will be hosting a Train Expo June 20-22 that will feature the 1225 and several other steam engines, special historical airplane exhibits, and an antique car show.  You can learn more about the extravaganza at the SRI website.

10252175_772190622798953_7637806208053220516_nThe Cook Family Foundation provided some of the earliest outside funding to help support the growth of SRI at its location in Owosso, and its museum has become part of the cultural landscape and railroad heritage of Shiawassee County.  SRI has also been a participant in the Foundation’s Nonprofit Capacity Building Program , and has used these resources to strengthen the organization, improve board governance, and carry out strategic planning.

We are proud that Owosso is home to the 1225.

Our 2013 Annual Report Now Online

The Cook Family Foundation’s spring newsletter just hit mailboxes (let us know if you want to be added to the mailing list) and is available on our website (click here).  The cover story is about our support for the International Baccalaureate program that is bringing the world, and a world of opportunity, to students of all ages in the Owosso Public Schools.  Inside the newsletter you will find our six goals for 2014, and our annual report where we recap of the grants we made in 2013.


If you haven’t had the chance, you may want to look around our recently updated website as well.  In our “About” section, you can find a video that gives the history of our founders, Don and Florence-etta Cook, as well as contact information.  Check out the “Nonprofit Capacity Building Program” section for details on upcoming education sessions, how to get support for local organizations, and to read our thoughts on collaborative efforts to improve the community.

Foundation Adopts Goals for 2014

In order to identify potential partners and encourage collaborative grant making, the Foundation has adopted six goals for its work in the coming year.

  1. Encourage the highest level of academic success for our community’s young people;
  2. Expand the capacity of community-based nonprofits to more effectively carry out their missions and serve the residents of Shiawassee County;
  3. Foster the Shiawassee River as a source of pride for the community;
  4. Promote the arts and history as strong cultural cornerstones of the community:
  5. Help care for and protect the most vulnerable members of our community:
  6. Increase opportunities for community collaboration and engagement among and between local nonprofits, arts organizations, government, students, and citizens:

We encourage you to learn more about our interest and background in these areas by reading through our website; several of the pages relate to these goals. We also encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can work together to achieve these goals.  We invite grant applications that serve these goals.

Financial Aid Workshop: January 20

The Cook Family Foundation is hosting a financial aid workshop on Monday, January 20, at 7 p.m. at the Baker College Welcome Center.  The presenter will be Mike Davis, from the Financial Aid Office of the University of Michigan.  While the workshop is directed to students interested in attending the University of Michigan, the information presented would be valuable to any student–and their parents–seeking financial assistance to attend college.  The workshop is open to anyone, but reservations are requested; please contact Yvette Collard at 989-725-1621 or [email protected]

Attending any four year institution is an expensive undertaking, but the University of Michigan has made a commitment to provide substantial assistance to any student in the State of Michigan who has demonstrated financial need.  Grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships are all part of the financial aid package and can come from the federal government, private sources (like the Cook Family Foundation), and the University itself.  The process can be complex; this workshop will help demystify financial aid and provide clear direction on how to qualify for the most assistance from the University of Michigan.

Several myths and misconceptions exist about the cost of attending the University of Michigan.  Visit this site (click here) to learn more.


Bruce & Jackie Cook Scholarship Nominees

B&J Scholars 2013-14

Twenty-seven of Shiawassee County’s most academically accomplished high school seniors have been nominated for scholarships to the University of Michigan by the Cook Family Foundation.  One of the students will be selected to receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship from Bruce and Jacqueline Cook.   Each of the nominees will receive at least a $2,000 scholarship to the University of Michigan from the Cook Family Foundation.  Click here for more information on our scholarship programs

If they apply and are admitted to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the following students will be considered for the Bruce and Jacqueline Cook scholarship: from Byron, Vanessa Kiefer; from Chesaning, Brody Cragg and Jared Weisenberger; from Corunna, Nathan Dennison, Anna Heidt, Stephanie Rasmussen, Lauren Ruess, and Kaila Watson; from Durand, Madeline Dietrich; from Laingsburg, Brandon Derke, Kirsten Johnson, and Sydney Rivard; from New Lothrop, Armon (Jake) Aznavorian and Nolan Wendling; from Ovid-Elsie, Logan Applebee, Hunter Charvat, and Alma Gingerich; from Owosso, Jordan Bannan, Caitlin Harrell, Janae Hurd, Geoffrey McClung, Olivia Pritchett, Samantha Traylor, and Madison Van Epps; and from Perry, Alexander Proudfoot, Cody Proudfoot, and Courtney Smith.

Past recipients of the Bruce and Jackie Cook Scholarship have included Emily Feuka from Perry in 2013, Sam Whaley also from Perry in 2012, Adam Stewart from Laingsburg in 2011, Valerie Foster from Byron in 2010, Adam Dingens from Corunna in 2009, Randy Piper from Owosso in 2008, Dan Frechtling from Perry in 2007 and Kendra Frye of Owosso in 2006.

Cook Scholar Graduates to Great Seattle Future

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Adams Dingens, a Corunna High School graduate from 2009, was selected that year as the Bruce & Jacqueline Scholarship winner.  This spring he graduated from the Univeristy of Michigan with a BS in Honors Microbiology and a minor in Science, Technology, and Society. While at UM, he worked in Dr. David Sherman’s lab at the Life Sciences Institute studying natural product biosynthesis, or how microbes make complex compounds that are promising pharmaceuticals.  He was also very involved with the Inter-Cooperative Council as the Vice President of Sustainability during his senior year.

Adam has now started a dual degree program at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle to get a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a MS in Epidemiology.  After graduate school he plans to continue a research career in academia focusing on an infectious diseases of significant global health importance.

Asked about his thoughts about his college experience, he says “I’m extremely grateful for my time at UM and all of the opportunities that went with it. Being able to learn from and work with people at the top of their field has inspired as well as enabled me to pursue a career in biomedical research. I surely would not be where I am today if I had not gone to UM.   And, I can’t recommend the school and life in Ann Arbor enough to anyone.”