Last year was a hard year for the Foundation, as we lost our two most recent leaders and benefactors. Bruce Cook passed away in October of 2022, and Jackie Cook passed away in May of 2023. Both of them were strongly committed to the communities in the Shiawassee region, volunteered and served in public office, and left a large philanthropic legacy with the Cook Family Foundation.
After a period of reflection and planning, the Foundation is now ready to expand its grant making to serve the communities beloved not only by Bruce and Jackie Cook, but also Donald and Florence-etta Cook, who initially endowed the Cook Family Foundation. We are inspired to carry on their good work.
We believe our communities are at their best when we come together to solve problems and improve the quality of life for all our residents. We support efforts to create diverse, healthy, and thriving communities where all children have access to the best education, the natural environment is protected and enjoyed, and all people have the opportunity and support to build joyful, meaningful lives (read here our full vision, mission and values statements).
Our Nonprofit Partners. We have found that our local nonprofit organizations are the best way to address the needs of Shiawassee County residents, and we have affirmed our commitment to them in new grant guidelines. For more than 15 years we have invested in the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofits our neighbors, friends, and fellow community members have chosen to volunteer with and give their time, treasure and talent to support. We will continue our capacity building efforts in 2024.
We also see leadership coming from our nonprofit sector, and have made a commitment to help them bring together both the public and the private sector to address community needs and take steps to improve the quality of life in Shiawassee County. Some of our best grants have been to local organizations to help them establish new partnerships, and/or leverage additional funds from local governments, apply for state or federal grants, or otherwise work together to make best use of the assets we have at hand. We are committed to collective impact.
The Cook Family Foundation does not seek to promote any particular cause or address only certain concerns. Rather, we believe that the local community can best identify the most pressing needs, and put together the most effective responses, in Shiawassee County. We live here too, and with a strong legacy of engagement in the community. We have added non-family members to our board. All of this helps us sometimes identify the best opportunities for funding. However, we also know we do not know everything, and we humbly and without bias accept grant requests to improve our communities. We always urge community members to reach out to us with their ideas.
It has become clear we need to pay greater attention to the natural world, our environment, to ensure a sustainable future for all of us. We are fortunate to live in communities often defined by the Shiawassee River and we extend our environmental grant-making to its watershed and surrounding areas. In particular, we seek to make investments to protect the land we all depend on, which includes both natural areas and working agricultural lands. Preserving and promoting nature can help improve water quality, reduce the impacts of a changing climate, provide recreational opportunities, and ensure a sustainable economy. Stay tuned as we make further announcements about our grant-making goals for land preservation and the environment.
Other Investments are also underway by the Cook Family Foundation to continue the legacy of our benefactors. In addition to support for local nonprofits serving Shiawassee County, and increased support for protection of the lands in the Shiawassee watershed, we continue our commitment to education and the University of Michigan. The first two grants of the Foundation, made in 1979, were a scholarship for a local student to attend college in Ann Arbor and to make improvements to the grounds at Owosso High School. We remain committed to education in the Shiawassee region, providing funding for pre-school programs, student support, and college scholarships. We continue to investigate opportunities for expanding options for our most academically talented students while in high school, as well as how to support them in college. Our board also continues to look for opportunities to expand community education, address the needs of our youth, and create more opportunities for women in education, the economy, civic leadership, and community development. Follow this website for further announcements.
The Grant-Making Process. After reviewing our grant guidelines, please reach out to us. We are happy to talk or meet about your ideas and discuss possibilities for an investment by the Cook Family Foundation. If you have a grant idea already, please fill out our online Initial Grant Application. We will get back to you within 30 days with a response. If your request meets our guidelines, we may set up a meeting, ask more questions, or invite a more formal application. All major grant decisions are made by our board, and they meet several times a year. Their next meeting will be in late April, and we invite grant application no later than April 1. Please contact Kerry Dutcher for more information or assistance.