Tom and Holly Valent hold two funds at the Midland Area Community Foundation that support the vision of a thriving Midland. They have a general endowment fund and an endowment fund that explicitly supports the Midland Area Santa House. As active philanthropists in Midland County, Tom and Holly were instrumental in turning the dream of a permanent Santa House in Downtown Midland into a reality.
They are grateful for their five loving children, five spouses, and 13 grandchildren. They have lived and worked in Midland for over 50 years. Tom is presently CEO of Gerace Construction, beginning his career there as a professional civil engineer after graduating from Michigan Tech University in 1973. Tom and Holly are the Dean and President of the CWH Santa School, a nonprofit world-famous school established in 1937. The Midland Santa School has attracted over 300 students and media worldwide for a week every October in Midland since 1986.
Tom: “My first experience with philanthropy in Midland was building the Tridge in 1981 with Gerace Construction. I admired and respected my boss, Frank Gerace, who reminded me of my father. He always encouraged us to give back to the community. He entrusted me as the lead engineer and project manager of the Tridge job. On that job, I remember sitting with Carl Gerstacker, one of the great ones, who was there every day, along with the Gerace crew, checking on the progress. Carl made me feel like I was an integral part of the Tridge and appreciated that I shared the same heart and passion he had for it. I took notice and respected these two men’s philanthropic work.”
Tom was also instrumental in designing and constructing the Midland Santa House, which opened in 1987. As an avid Santa historian, he revised the original plans of a small ranch-style house to the two-story structure, added a bay front window, designed the massive stone fireplace, and added beams and the tree-carved railing to the 2nd story. These were based on memories from an original Santa House in New York State, which Holly had visited as a young child in the 1950s. There were many contributors to the original Santa House, from area contractors to local businesses. He proposed and designed the 3rd story and glockenspiel addition to the Midland Santa House in 1997. It was built thanks to the generosity of the Dow Chemical Company. Today, it is the last real bell-striking mechanism built in the U.S. Tom hand-carved the glockenspiel children based on the images of his two youngest children and donated them as a gift to the Santa House. Tom also led the renovations of the Santa House in 2012.
Holly: “We believe it is vitally important to practice giving in your community. It is heartwarming to have such amazing examples of philanthropy in the Midland area. We witness it every day at the Midland Santa House, the Santa parades, and the Northern Star train volunteers and participants. These projects are full of wonder and hope to create happiness and magical memories for both children and adults during the holiday season. It often takes substantial time, treasure, and work to help people, but well worth the immeasurable rewards. Some people receive recognition, while others quietly give so generously with enormous hearts without seeking any notice. This is a beautiful and spiritual goodness that we witness in the Midland community. We are truly blessed.”