These 19 Northern Michigan nonprofits need your support this giving season (and year-round!). Learn about each nonprofit’s mission, recent successes and current challenges. From volunteering with Norte to supporting Traverse Area District Library’s new Bookmobile, here’s how to help save the day.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our digital issue library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

Giving Guide: How to Support Northern Michigan Nonprofits

These 19 nonprofits were featured in the November issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine in our special publication MyNorth Give. Get your print or digital version of this year’s Give issue here.

Fostering Family Love with Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan

The Heroes: Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan | CFS Website

Their Mission: To connect children with safe, loving foster homes while creating healthier and safer Northern Michigan Communities

Recent Success: Kelly Gravelle has always taken a special interest in mentoring teens. When she moved to Suttons Bay, Kelly purchased a large home and decided to offer the extra space to anyone in need of housing. She began working with the Child and Family Services team and, in 2020, became a licensed foster mom to a 14-year-old whom she adopted last fall.

Recent Challenge: Unfortunately, Kelly’s story isn’t commonplace. Finding suitable homes for foster teens is a pressing need; there are 13,000 children in the State of Michigan foster care, and 3,600 are between ages 16 and 21.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about tees in foster care,” says Development Specialist Emma Smith, MA, LLPC. “It’s not as scary as people think. These kids really need connections with safe, stable adults—someone who is willing to love a kid who needs to be loved.”

Solution: Consider fostering. The Department of Health & Human Services is calling from several countries away trying to place 3-and 4-year olds, and tees are even harder to place, Smith says, pointing to Michigan’s serious lack of foster homes.

How You Can Save the Day: If you can’t forster, donate. If you can’t donate, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, sign up for the Child and Family Services newsletter and share it with your community.

Two people helping a kid draw

Memories with a Cherry on Top with The Festival Foundation

The Heroes: The Festival Foundation | Festival Foundation Website

Their Mission: Founded by growers in 1926, the Festival Foundation preserves Michigan traditions and the local cherry economy through beloved annual events that include the National Cherry Festival and the Iceman Cometh mountain bike challenge.

Recent Success: Covid-19 hit the foundation pretty hard, knocking events out of whack until 2022 when summer concerts and air shows returned in full force to the 96-year-old National Cherry Festival. The successful comeback allowed the foundation to give back more than $50,000 to area scholarships and nonprofits. “It’s been nice to see it trending back to people coming together as family and friends, getting outside together and building those lasting traditions,” says Cherry Festival Foundation Creative Director Bailey Judson.

Current Challenge: Like many things post-Covid, supplies are harder to come by and carry a higher-than-usual price tag. The foundation’s slim staff of seven works hard to put on a gamut of events, the majority of which remain free and attainable. “We want to ensure that a single parent can continue to get that ice cream cone for $2,” Judson says.

Solution: Sustainable donors are key to upholding these traditions. In 2020, the nonprofit created its Festival Foundation Growers’ Program, inviting donors to contribute anywhere from $5 to $500 monthly.

How You Can Save the Day: Join the Festival Foundation Growers’ Program or volunteer to pour beer, scoop ice cream or register folks for races at one of the foundation’s annual events.

Cherry festival ride

Photo by Dave Weidner

Preserve a Slice of History with Mason County Historical Society

The Heroes: Mason County Historical Society | Mason County Historical Society Website

Their Mission: The educational nonprofit has been preserving, presenting and protecting Mason County history since 1937. Today, the historical society operates two full-scale museums, a research center, an emporium and a sports hall of fame.

Recent Success: On September 1, 2022, the historical society celebrated the grand opening of its 10,000-square-foot Mason County Research Center in the former downtown National Bank of Ludington. The impressive archival collection tells local stories through photographs, letters, books, maps, newspapers, family histories and more.

Current Challenge: Entirely donor, member, and admission funded, the historical society seeks to increase donor and member support to cover increased annual operating costs.

Solution: The historic 30-building White Pine Village provides a living history experience to over 4,000 west Michigan school students each year. To continue this type of impactful programming experience, the historical society needs to grow its membership and donor support.

How You Can Save the Day: Become a Mason Memories donor. Donations help preserve history through programming opportunities like the winter speaker series, museum exhibitions and Living History Days. Each year more than 20,000 people come to Historic White Pine Village and the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum to experience the history of West Michigan.

Get involved with the Historical Society and boost community spirit as a member or volunteer. Enjoy discounts on historical programming and enjoy unlimited admissions to both Museums. Volunteer docents and research library data entry help is always appreciated.

Old time photo of horse and buggy

Photo by Mason County Historical Society

The Artist Makers with Interlochen Center for the Arts

The Heroes: Interlochen Center for the Arts | Interlochen Center for the Arts Website

Their Mission: Interlochen is the premier destination for young artists to transform passion and potential into purpose. The program welcomes 3,000 students ages 8 to 18 each summer and more than 500 high school arts students throughout the academic year.

Recent Success: Interlochen distributed more than $17 million in scholarships last year. Among the recipients was a talented female singer on a camp scholarship who, with support from a donor, was able to continue on and attend the academy this school year.

“She is such an incredible talent with great energy and dedication,” says Interlochen Provost Camille Colatosti. “This is a student who really has that passion and potential. I see her in Madison Square Garden someday commanding the entire audience.”

Current Challenge: Interlochen turns 100 in 2028 and has set a goal of meeting the full financial need of any accepted student, an estimated $22 million annually.

Solution: So far, extremely generous supporters and alumni are backing the large philanthropic effort. But, Colatosti says, Interlochen is always looking to make new friends. “No donation is too small,” she says. “Any level of generosity is appreciated.”

How You Can Save the Day: Donate online; funds go directly to supporting students. Volunteer as an usher during student performances, plant flowers on the academy grounds or offer to host an international student who is unable to travel home during the winter break (Dec. 21–Jan. 7). To connect, reach out to

Two people playing musical instruments

Photo by Taylor Brown

Shelter from the Storm with Goodwill Northern Michigan

The Heroes: Goodwill Northern Michigan | Goodwill Website

Their Mission: Making homelessness rare, brief and one-time while providing employment and nutritious food.

Recent Success: Although the May 2022 tornado devastated Goodwill’s new Gaylord store, shutting down a funnel of funding that brings 2 million pounds of food a year to Greater Grand Traverse Area food pantries, there was a silver lining.

“It was a terrible situation, but it was really nice to see how businesses and neighbors came together to rebuild and support each other. We had a great outpouring of people dropping off food and clothing,” says Goodwill Northern Michigan Director of Communications Deb Lake. The Goodwill team—some wielding tattoos memorializing their in-store tornado survival—started over with inventory and had a pop-up location open within two months.

Current Challenge: Reopening a smaller store has revived revenue channels to food and homeless programs. As crews work to rebuild the Main Street store, leadership is focused on big-picture issues like distributing food equitably, reaching more underserved regions and expanding available units to help those exiting homelessness.

Solution: When you donate old clothes, electronics and jewelry to Goodwill, you’re putting dollars into the stream that feeds Patriot Place supportive housing for veterans, and helps Food Rescue pick up $70,000 worth of weekly leftovers from local grocery stores, farms and restaurants and deliver it to Goodwill’s Northwest Food Coalition partner pantries and community meal sites.

How You Can Save the Day: Community support is Goodwill’s heartbeat. Write a philanthropic check, shop at and donate to Goodwill or thrift online, anytime.

Temporary tattoos on wrists

Photo by Goodwill Northern Michigan

Books on Wheels with Traverse Area District Library

The Heroes: Traverse Area District Library | TADL Website

Their Mission: The library encourages creativity and literacy, promotes dynamic resources, offers innovative services and nurtures personal enrichment. And the new Bookmobile checks every box.

“The pandemic really brought home how much people rely on the library,” says Library Director Michele Howard. “People missed us more than [they missed] their hairdresser. That really put the fire under the Bookmobile project.”

Recent Success: Thanks to a generous Rotary Charities grant, the library was able to order an extended Dodge Ram cargo van, a.k.a. the Bookmobile. Stirring cheery delivery vibes from the 1960s, the library on wheels allows Howard and staff to once again bring books and services (WiFi, printers, movies, puzzles) to senior centers, preschools and community events.

“So many people have memories of the Bookmobile coming to them way back when,” Howard says. “It’s a magical portal of imagination.”

Current Challenge: The Bookmobile is new and doesn’t have a collection yet. Library staff compiled a wish list that includes more rolling book carts, tech cabinets, a projection screen, and money to purchase additional books, movies and albums.

Solution: To get the van stocked and out on the road this fall and winter, the library needs monetary donations. The online wish list and donations page is a great place to start.

How You Can Save the Day: Host a holiday party fundraiser with your book club and round up a group donation. Visit the online wish list and buy a tank of gas for the Bookmobile or donate money to help the library reach its goal of 500 new books.

Traverse Area District Library van

Photo by Traverse Area District Library

Movement as Medicine with Grand Traverse Bay YMCA

The Heroes: Grand Traverse Bay YMCA | YMCA Website

Their Mission: Access to building a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

Recent Success: A single mother and her 12-year-old son joined the YMCA and found simple joy in exercising for the first time. Health and connection flowed from finding that thing they could do together. “He’d shoot baskets, she’d walk on the track, then they’d go to the pool together. It was life-changing for them,” says YMCA President and CEO Andrew Page.

The Grand Traverse Bay YMCA extends beyond your typical gym and swim. The nonprofit shares its message that movement is medicinal and gives back to the community through team sports, group fitness classes, after-school programs and much more.

Current Challenge: Like many organizations post- Covid, staffing is tough. The YMCA is focused on retaining solid staff in all departments and growing its after-school youth sports programs—they offer everything from kids taekwondo to teen tennis.

Solution: These volunteer-based programs give kids—no matter their ability or capacity to pay (the YMCA never turns anyone away)—a sense of community and sportsmanship, and the Y is always in need of coaches. Don’t worry, Page says, you don’t need a ton of experience; they’ll train you.

How You Can Save the Day: It’s threefold: volunteer as a coach, become a YMCA member and donate. The YMCA has big pockets to fill and bodies to inspire. You can help them do this by making a dent in their goal to raise $250,000 a year.

Kids holding various sports balls

More than a Home with BrickWays

The Heroes: BrickWays | BrickWays Website

Their Website: Mary Jean Brick had a son and sister with developmental disabilities and worked with government agencies to start up a licensed adult foster care home in 1975, laying the foundation for BrickWays’ highly successful independent living and group housing.

“Our purpose is to help folks be a part of the community and not apart from the community,” says BrickWays Director Susan Onan.

Recent Success: Abe had aged out of the foster care system and his support services were expiring. He was highly emotional, flashing from rage to suicidal. BrickWays took Abe in to get him stabilized, and now he’s in the most independent of housing options, has a driver’s license, a job in the community and inspires everyone he meets.

Current Challenge: BrickWays has grown to five unique housing situations, home to 46 adults as well as 50 people enrolled in TRAIL community-living support pro- grams, but mental health funding is shaky and there’s no guaranteed backing.

“People are calling me frantically; they don’t know what they’re going to do,” Onan says. “I have four tenants that I keep working with, because if they lose their housing they have nowhere to go, no one to go to.”

Solution: BrickWays wants to develop more one-bedroom and efficiency housing. “These people are able to pay only $400 for rent, when current market rates are up to $1,000,” Onan says. “We need more big donors who are able to pro- vide yearly support.”

How You Can Save the Day: Outside of becoming an annual donor, BrickWays needs community members to share their skills. Do you sew? Cook? Teach yoga? Get involved and inspire others.

Grey couch with plant in front

Neighbors Helping Neighbors with Leelanau Christian Neighbors

The Heroes: Leelanau Christian Neighbors | LCN Website

Their Mission: To help Leelanau County residents in need of food, infant supplies, clothing or financial assistance for rent, utility bills, car repairs and medical services.

Recent Success: The group’s Buy the Runway! Gala summer fundraiser at the Old Art Building in Leland benefited LCN’s Samaritans’ Closet, a resale shop for clothing and household items. Revenue from the shop helps fund the organization’s programs. The gala also showcased models wearing clothes from Samaritans’ Closet. “It was just a wonderful event, and people came out and really supported Leelanau Christian Neighbors,” says Mary Stanton, executive director. “We’re really appreciative of the support from the community.”

Current Challenge: Because of increased demand at its food pantry in Lake Leelanau, LCN is projecting a budget deficit this year and next. During the pandemic, the pantry was serving 40-45 families a week—that number has increased to about 115 families a week. Many families are struggling financially because of the rising costs of food, gas and other basic needs.

Solution: Thanks to community support, LCN has been able to purchase a steer and three hogs every other month and have them processed locally, and community support will allow them to continue to provide that meat to LCN’s growing number of clients. Donations of both money and food help keep the pantry shelves full.

How You Can Save the Day: Donate. LCN accepts food donations at its pantry, and clothing and household items at Samaritans’ Closet. Or donate online at

Woman putting items in a box

Grace and Grief with Michael’s Place

The Heroes: Michael’s Place | Michael’s Place Website

Their Mission: Launched in 2001, Michael’s Place helps grieving children, teens, adults and families through support, advocacy and education.

Recent Success: Imagine losing a parent to cancer and having to navigate second grade filled with heavy and un- familiar emotions. Michael’s Place lightens the grief load with innovative and compassionate support programs, like expressive art workshops for kids. At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, Michael’s Place offered seven in-school support groups. By the end of the school year, there were 20 programs reaching 14 Northern Michigan elementary, middle and high schools.

Current Challenge: With growth comes need. Prior to the pandemic, an estimated one in 20 children experienced the death of a parent or sibling by the time they reached 18. Today, the number is closer to one in 13, says Executive Director Mindy Buell.

The good news is more schools are emphasizing social-emotional wellbeing. The struggle lies in financial support to meet rising demand.

Solution: “You can’t fix it or take away the sadness of loss, but you can show that you care by simply being present and listening,” Buell says.

Tips for Supporting a Grieving Child:
• Answer questions with age-appropriate honesty • Let them know it’s okay to be sad or angry
• Offer comfort and quality time
• Encourage creative outlets to express feelings

How You Can Save the Day: Take a Tour of Hope and learn about Michael’s Place programs. While you’re there, sign up to volunteer and make a financial contribution to help fund programs and services.

Woman holding child

Lighting the Way with The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse

The Heroes: The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse, Inc. | Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse Website

Their Mission: This nonprofit leads restoration efforts, handles daily operations and raises awareness for one of the state’s most iconic lighthouses.

Recent Success: Executive Director Casey Ottinger, a staff of 10 and a host of volunteers deliver programming that includes story times, ghost tours, an adult lecture series, scavenger hunts and daily tours. During peak season June through August, the lighthouse welcomes 300 visitors a day. Point Betsie Lighthouse celebrated a record revenue summer in 2022.

Current Challenge: The 75-year-old concrete apron that separates the lighthouse from Lake Michigan is eroding and cracking due to water and wind exposure. Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse received a State of Michigan grant for $5.1 million to replace the apron, but the project is estimated to cost between $9 and $12 million.

Solution: Aiming to break ground in 2024, lighthouse advocates are working with marine engineers, the State Historic Preservation Office, Army Corp of Engineers and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to develop a plan while fundraising to meet monetary goals.

How You Can Save the Day: Donate supplies via the Point Betsie Lighthouse Amazon wish list, become a lighthouse member, or volunteer and help lighten the staffing load. Be a tour guide, sit at the top of the tower and answer questions or work in the gift shop. Pick one day a week or one day a year—every effort helps.

Northern Michigan lighthouse

Photo by Dave Weidner

Nurturing Love of Nature with Grand Traverse Conservation District

The Heroes: Grand Traverse Conservation District | GT Conservation Website

Their Mission: To lead, facilitate and inspire exploration, appreciation, conservation and restoration of the natural world.

Recent Success: The organization recently opened a Nature Playscape behind its Boardman River Nature Center in Traverse City, featuring natural elements that give children the opportunity to “free play.” Children can play in a rock river and a beaver dam, or enjoy a climbable spider web. The playscape is ADA accessible and is the culmination of year-long planning and design, funded through a combination of donations and the organization’s budget.

Current Challenge: The District is seeking funding support for two major projects: The Great Lakes Incubator Farm program and the Ottaway Crossing. The Great Lakes Incubator Farm seeks to lower barriers to access for new and beginning farmers. The historic Meyer Farm property on Keystone Road will be used as an educational and demonstration farm. The Ottaway Crossing, named for the indigenous name of the river, is a 180-foot pedestrian bridge that will span the Boardman-Ottaway River on the former site of the Sabin Dam, which was removed in 2018. With ongoing ecological restoration and an increase in trail use since the pandemic, the need for a pedestrian crossing is greater than ever.

Solutions: Donations for both projects. A $2.8 million fundraising campaign—Connecting to the Future—has been launched and will continue for two years. The hope is the bridge will be constructed in 2025. The first farm recruits begin in the spring.

How You Can Save the Day: To donate, visit and click

Scenic overlook sign

Photo by Dave Weidner

Saving Sanctuaries with Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

The Heroes: Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy | GTRLC Website

Their Mission: Advancing stewardship and protecting significant natural, scenic and farm lands in the Grand Traverse region, now and for future generations.

Recent Success: Finch Creek Nature Sanctuary, a 56-acre tract in Antrim County, is now safe from impending development. The sanctuary is home to mesic northern forest and conifer swamp habitats and contains riparian wetlands and groundwater springs that serve as the headwaters of Crow Creek. “It’s really a special property,” says Jennifer Jay, communications director for the Conservancy. “Sanctuaries are different from preserves, and specifically are properties not conducive to intensive public use, but they are extremely important to protecting the quality of life that we love here.”

Current Challenge: Two are pressing: Preserving the 114-acre Birch Point site would safeguard water quality, further protect a rare coastal ecosystem and connect fragmented wildlife habitat in the Platte River Watershed, an area facing development pressure. And protecting the 120-acre Turtle Cove property (pictured above) in Grand Traverse County would safeguard water quality and create a nature preserve on popular Arbutus Lake.

Solution: “In this community, people really value what Up North is … the land, fresh water, local farms for local produce, trails and universally accessible areas to visit … all of that starts with protecting the land base,” Jay says. To date, the conservancy has protected 46,000 acres in five counties and “we still have more to do,” Jay adds.

How You Can Save the Day: Donors can choose a specific project, such as the Turtle Cove Nature Preserve or the Birch Point Nature Preserve, to help bring those properties into protection.

Northern Michigan cove surrounded by trees

Photo by Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

Shop with Soul with Downtown Traverse Association

The Heroes: Downtown Traverse City Association | Downtown TC Association Website

Their Mission: This voluntary merchant association’s goal is to promote and perpetuate commercial, professional and financial businesses downtown and support local nonprofit groups.

Recent Success: The group’s events—Street Sale and Last Slice of Summer—include nonprofit participation to increase exposure and shed light on important causes in the community.

Current Challenge: To keep the momentum of summer and fall business going throughout the year, and to continue to give back to the community.

Solution: Every November, Downtown TC organizes Shop Your Community Day to raise money for a host of local nonprofit groups. Fifteen percent of any sale at participating merchants is donated to the customer’s organization of choice. It’s a win/win, encouraging people to shop local knowing they’re not only supporting small businesses, but also giving back in a meaningful way. Last year, more than 60 downtown merchants participated, and 30 nonprofits have signed up so far this year.

How You Can Save the Day: Make your list and shop downtown! Shop Your Community Day will be held Nov. 12. Check online for a list of local nonprofit groups your dollars will help.

People walking on street

Photo by Dave Weidner

Feeding Community with Manna Food Project

The Heroes: Manna Food Project | Manna Food Project Website

Their Mission: To help feed the hungry in Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

Recent Success: Providing a disabled Marine veteran with food on a regular basis. Bryan, who lives in Pellston most of the year, came to Manna Food Project’s pantry last fall, embarrassed and ashamed because he was broke and had little food. He didn’t know what to expect but found the staff “kind and welcoming,” he wrote in a note of gratitude to the organization. He has returned twice a month since April. “All the workers and volunteers know him by name. People ask how he’s doing and show him respect and kindness,” says Carrie Klingelsmith, Manna’s executive director. “He looks forward to coming here.”

Current Challenge: Manna Food Project is experiencing longer lines at its food pantry and an increase in demand for its services overall. Manna works with 40 partner agencies, who order from Manna’s food bank to supply their meal programs and pantries. In January, Manna’s food pantry served 460 clients; in July, that number jumped to 769 people. The growing demand is a result of both government assistance tapering off after the pandemic, and inflation. Families are struggling with higher costs of food and basic needs. Donations have also been down.

Solution: “We are seeking as many grants as possible and trying to work with as many donors as possible,” Klingelsmith says.“We are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to find funding for food. We can stretch a dollar a lot further than the general public can by purchasing food from Feeding America, a hunger relief organization that supports food pantries.”

How You Can Save the Day: Donations are the lifeblood of Manna Food Project—the organization accepts food donations at its Harbor Springs location, 8791 McBride Park Court, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Donations by cash or credit cards also help keep the pantry full. To donate online, go to: Donors can also text: MANNA to 56651.

Man holding box of vegetables

Pedal Power with Norte

The Heroes: Norte | Norte Website

Their Mission: Nurturing healthy lifelong habits and community connection through cycling since 2014.

Recent Success: The nonprofit’s community-powered, youth-focused programming—including an extremely popular after-school Mountain Bike and Adventure Bike Club, an adaptive Bikes for All program, and summer bike camps—now touches six counties. Summer 2022 programs reached more than 600 kids, ages preschool to high school, and 2021 saw upward of 5,000 volunteer hours.

Current Challenge: The pandemic spurred growth, and now Norte is wrestling with that success. The big-picture goal still revolves around starting a little star on a balance bike, helping them progress through youth bike programs, and helping foster community leadership in them as young adults. We’re here for the long haul,” says Advocacy and Communications Director Gary Howe. “We’re looking at how we can move forward with intention and maintain quality in programming.”

Solution: Norte never wants program registration fees to be a barrier for a child. Generous donors help secure funding for youth scholarships and the Grand Traverse Regional Kids Bike Library is stocked with nearly 800 bikes (80 percent are checked out at any given time).

“Seeing a single parent who has three kids and may be struggling, we get ’em rolling and set up with bikes,” Howe says.

How You Can Save the Day: It’s threefold: Donate to help fund programming, volunteer to bike with and coach kids, or learn about Norte on a walking meeting around the Grand Traverse County Civic Center track trail.

Biking grou

Photo by Norte

Mercy for the Many with St. Vincent de Paul

The Heroes: Grand Traverse Area Society of St. Vincent de Paul | St. Vincent de Paul Website

Their Mission: To offer the community the opportunity to practice the corporal works of mercy: shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, bury the dead, give alms to the poor.

Recent Success: An attempt to purchase a second home as part of SVdP’s Reduced Income Housing Project (RIHP) has been put on hold due to the recent bidding wars. “But it taught us a lot about the shortage of affordable housing and the need to continue the RIH Project,” says Julie Ellalasingham, board president. The project is a partnership with state agencies that find housing for those holding a state voucher.

Current Challenge: Besides its most recognized work— its thrift store and Catholic shop on Woodmere in Traverse City—the organization has other forms of service that need volunteer hands as well. “More hands mean greater service to our neighbors,” Ellalasingham says. The financial assistance department has been able to help by working with other agencies such as MDHHS, NMCAA, The Father Fred Foundation, Salvation Army, Love Thy Neighbor, local churches and others to ensure a collaborative and comprehensive service. SVdP is also a part of the Basic Needs Coalition, which serves the homeless population.

Solution: Ellalasingham says volunteers are needed to expand the housing voucher program, interview callers in need of financial assistance, pick up donations, take a seat on the board or help out administratively. She adds, “Whatever you want to do, we will carve out some space for you.”

How You Can Save the Day: Prospective volunteers can stop by the thrift store, call 231.947.8466 or send a message via Facebook.

Group of people with boxes

Supporting Caregivers with ShareCare of Leelanau

The Heroes: ShareCare of Leelanau | ShareCare Website

Their Mission: Helping seniors live and age well in their own home by providing support services like check-in phone calls and friendly visits, along with encouraging family caregiver success.

Recent Success: Retired architect Neil Schoof delivers groceries and drives seniors to medical appointments. Former award-winning journalist Susan Ager trained to be a hospice volunteer and calls seniors to check in. ShareCare has 70 active volunteers providing services in rural Leelanau County. And now, they’re launching a respite program for volunteers to coach and provide breaks for family caregivers.

“With a shortage of independent caregivers, it often falls on families to take care of loved ones who have a chronic illness or memory loss,” says ShareCare Executive Director Julie Tarr. “We provide trained volunteer coaches to be a resource for that person.”

Current Challenge: ShareCare receives lots of requests for immediate services and is working toward expanding to surrounding counties. With a chunk of volunteers leaving for the winter, Tarr says they’d like to grow the volunteer pool by 25 percent and offer winter workshops such as memoir writing, fitness and balance and a book club.

Solution: In order to grow, ShareCare needs more funding and volunteers.

How You Can Save the Day: Volunteer this winter to run errands, pick up groceries, take care of a senior’s pet while they’re away or help out with a workshop. A few hours a month or a monetary donation makes a huge impact.

Panoramic view of elderly lady on wheelchair holding hands with

Navigating Mental Illness with NAMI

The Heroes: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Grand Traverse | NAMI Website

Their Mission: To educate and support people with mental health conditions and their friends and family who live in support of them.

Recent Success: NAMI began in the 1970s as a group of moms gathered in a kitchen sharing experiences about loving someone who’s mentally ill and grew into the largest grassroots mental health association in the country. NAMI Grand Traverse leads a host of free family, school and veteran mental health programs and support groups. A new executive director has made huge strides in outreach and grant funding while a dedicated navigator has assisted families in crisis, helping them navigate the justice system and finding resources like therapists, doctors and available hospital beds.

Current Challenge: NAMI’s grant that funds these two crucial positions has run out.

“Our navigator has been with us almost a year now, part-time, and has made such a difference in so many lives,” says Affiliate Secretary Paula McLain, pointing to severe statewide mental healthcare shortcomings. “When a mother was told her son needed to wait a year to get in with a psychiatrist, she found him an appointment that month.”

Solution: NAMI will continue to apply for grants and welcome monetary donations. Though volunteers do need to have first-hand experience caring for someone with mental illness, NAMI is looking for presenters to speak in schools and families to help lead Homefront classes.

How You Can Save the Day: Become a member, donate, join the NAMI fundraising event committee and donate returnable cans and bottles to NAMI the second Saturday of each month at Family Fare in Traverse City.

Woman consoling a man

Photo(s) by Norte