MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) recently awarded the Community Foundation of Marquette County a $100,000 State Equity Fund (SEF) technical assistance grant to help support the incoming American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars in Marquette County.

The Statewide Equity Fund invested in five regions across the state to help philanthropic collaboratives develop local approaches to equitable planning and distribution of incoming ARPA resources for projects addressing significant community needs. Marquette County is one of five pilot sites selected.

In its 2021 Annual Report, the Council of Michigan Foundations noted, “This presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for philanthropy to help guide federal funding toward systemic change. Council of Michigan Foundations members are engaging in thoughtful and strategic conversations with their government officials about the use of these dollars to help ensure any investments are centered in equity and informed by community voice.”

Zosia Eppensteiner, Community Foundation CEO said, “We are thrilled that Marquette County is one of the pilot sites for the State Equity Fund and are honored to lead this effort.” The Foundation is currently meeting with local groups and technical assistance providers to discuss key issues identified in Marquette County’s 2040 Master Plan, including childcare and homelessness.

During the next few months, technical assistance providers are working with the Community Foundation and agencies in Marquette County to gather information from the community, particularly from underrepresented groups.

Eppensteiner explained, “We are bringing partners together — groups that have been working hard on the priority issues of childcare and homelessness in our community — to discuss possible solutions. Our priority in this process is making sure that we are hearing from the people in our community most affected by these issues.”

In May, Marquette-based Grow & Lead: Youth and Community Development will assist the Community Foundation in gathering this input from the community.

“We’ll be going out into various areas in the county to talk with nonprofits and the people they serve to hear how the pandemic impacted their community,” Victoria Leonhardt, an associate at Grow & Lead. “There is a focus on organizations that aren’t always invited or able to participate in these conversations, such as informal grassroots networks, faith-based communities, and those in outlying areas.”

Marquette County Finance Manager Anne Giroux, who serves on the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees, also commented on the importance of public input. “My hope is with this funding and the work that Grow & Lead is doing, we’ll be able to reach the right audiences to get feedback and input on how to direct the different initiatives, including childcare and homelessness. We need help figuring this out. I’m really hoping that this funding will help us do that. More importantly, I’m hoping this work will open the door for additional funding opportunities in the future.”