Prologue: From humble beginnings to assets totaling over $100 million, Your Foundation has always retained its roots. Mary Neely was one of the instrumental community members in founding, launching, and shaping the Foundation into what it is today. Community members, much like Mary, will continue to carry the torch for the Foundation for the next 50 years.
“I know you’ve heard of Carl and Esther Gerstacker. They were good friends of ours and grew up in Cleveland: the birthplace of the first Community Foundation, and they were determined to have one here. But you need other people to turn an idea into a reality, and luckily, there were a lot of people that thought the idea would be fun and wanted to get involved.
I grew up in a small town in Ohio called Marysville, and my family was always involved in everything, so that was in my blood. I enjoyed volunteering, and when our Foundation began, it sounded like something I would like, so I got involved. I joined the board in the early days and was Chair from 1984 to 1988. That was the era when the Tridge was being built. There were so many exciting things going on, and it was fun to be a part of it. It was always so positive; there were very few down days. There was always something going on that was going to be fun, and that made people want to be a part of it. It’s nice to do things that people can get excited about and love doing.
There were so many things I enjoyed doing it’s hard to pinpoint any of them, but the hospital always meant a lot to me. I used to go out and read to the kids in the hospital as part of the Pediatrics Guild.
I stayed with the Foundation so long because I enjoyed it. I like being part of the community, and I’ve always loved Midland. I’m just glad I got involved in the community because that’s how you FEEL involved, and that’s why Midland means so much to me.
If I had anything to say to people looking forward to the next 50 years of the Midland Area Community Foundation, it would be to get acquainted with the current President and CEO, Sharon Mortensen. She’s doing a marvelous job, isn’t she? She just set it on fire; she really has. She has a broad perspective of the community and what’s going on. You can tell she loves it and that people love to work with her, and that’s just a wonderful combination.
Apart from that, I’d say to just keep tabs on what the community wants, what is going to be a success, and what would make it a better community—but you have to be involved in the community to know those things.