The Community Foundation of Greater Rochester Celebrates 35 Years as the Areas Center for Philanthropy

The Greater Rochester area is known for its giving spirit. Residents, organizations and businesses alike come together to give, in big and small ways, on a daily basis. Many of this giving is done behind the scenes. Unsung heroes help to make this community a premier place to live.

Celebrating 35 years as the greater Rochester area’s center for philanthropy and endowed funds, the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester is possibly one of the community’s most valuable unsung heroes. The organization has been the fuel and backbone for hundreds of organizations, projects and individuals throughout its 35 years.

McKay and Huizanga on location at the Van Hoosen Farm in 1992

Pat McKay, Van Hoosen Farm, and Dick Huizanga, Community Foundation founder in April 1992

Long-time Rochester Hills resident, Mary Ann Reidinger, was the Community Foundation’s first Executive Director. She reflects back on the Foundation’s very humble beginnings. “A group of retired Rochester Community School teachers wanted to leave a legacy to the students that would remain long after they’d gone,” said Reidinger. “The first funds in the Community Foundation were for a scholarship fund. We began to manage that endowment, making sure that we could do the most with those funds for the community.”

That small fund began to evolve as others in the community saw the benefit of the Foundation’s ability to manage and distribute funds effectively. Organizations including the Lion’s and Kiwanis Clubs were some of the first to partner with the Community Foundation to endow funds that could be used for future generations.

Four people hold a giant check for a photo

Jo Allen, Community Foundation Greater Rochester presents a check with Great Oaks Country Club-Great Oaks Cares Fund

“The Community Foundation is such a unique piece of this community,” said Jo Allen, Executive Director, Community Foundation Greater Rochester. “Organizations and individuals in this community play an amazing lead role in giving back. We get to be the supporting actor, ensuring they have what they need to manage their fundraising and legacy planning efforts.”

The Community Foundation, like many foundations in communities across the country, is designed to be the community’s resource for endowment and grant-making. The Community Foundation of Greater Rochester currently manages more than 150 funds, making it possible for nonprofit organizations to maximize their work, and ensuring that community donations are managed soundly. It is also a foundation of support for many community projects.

Groundbreaking photo on location with artist rendering behind the VTOT board

Mike Bishop at the ground breaking for the Veteran’s Tribute of Oakland County

“The Community Foundation of Greater Rochester has been a partner on nearly every major project at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm,” said Pat McKay, Manager, Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm. “The Foundation was part of our fundraising efforts to support the adaptive reuse of the Dairy Barn and Calf Barn. The Foundation also provided us with seed funding to replace the roof on the Bull Barn and Milk House, and they provided us with the technical knowledge and professional expertise that allowed us to accept philanthropic support and to be successful.”

The success of the Foundation is seen in the hundreds of projects it has funded, and millions of dollars it has managed. What the community sees are the finished projects, funded scholarships and renovated buildings. Behind the scenes is an incredible force that continues to evolve and grow. One of the Foundation’s most visible funds is the Women’s Fund. This fund began in 2000 when 100 women committed $1,000 to launch an endowed fund that would give back to women in need. Since its founding, the Women’s Fund has received more than 5,000 contributions allowing it to support women’s initiatives throughout Oakland County. The success of the Women’s Fund is in large part due to the Women’s Fund Advisory Board, a group of volunteers devoted to seeing the fund continue to succeed.

Two women hold a giant check for a photo

Rennee Cortright receiving a check from The Women’s Fund

“Whether people want to start a specific endowed fund to ensure their investments are safe, or they want to give to a larger community project like the Rochester Area Prayer Breakfast, they can do that through the Community Foundation,” said City of Rochester Council Member and Community Foundation Board Member, Nancy Salvia. “Not only is the Foundation a part of many of the organizations that we know and love in this area like The Women’s Fund and Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, it’s also a place where people with an idea can find the expertise they need to do something big for their community.”

As The Community Foundation of Greater Rochester celebrates its 35th Anniversary, it will be sharing 35 stories of community impact. Perhaps most exciting, and a representation of the Foundation’s impact on the local community, is its recent work with Rochester Hill’s new park, Innovation Hills and the Oakland County Veteran’s Memorial. These two projects honor the community’s history while looking toward its future. They are the culmination of years of work, planning and creative philanthropy, and made easier through the support of the Community Foundation.

“The Community Foundation truly is a community partner,” said Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett. “Many of our local nonprofits and individuals are able to have a secure place to manage funds for projects and giving. The City of Rochester Hills has benefited from the Foundation since its inception through donor advised funds and scholarship programs. Most recently we’ve been able to utilize The Community Foundation as a partner for Innovation Hills as we raise funds for this exciting project.”

Woven into the fabric of the Greater Rochester area is The Community Foundation. Its impact can be seen from rooftops to pathways, and from kindergarten backpacks to college scholarships. This unsung hero represents a community that embraces philanthropy and strives to give back to those in need.

“The Community Foundation started with just a few people who wanted to give back and make a difference,” said Reidinger. “That is what our wonderful community is all about. That’s what makes it so special. My hope is that more people will step up and partner with the Community Foundation to leave their legacy in this wonderful community where we’ve grown up and raised our families.”

To learn more about the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester and how to create an endowed fund, visit or call 248-608-2804.

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