Foundation praised at Legacy dinner

Ilsa Matthes | Daily Press The Island Resort and Casino was packed Thursday for The Legacy, the annual dinner for the Community Foundation for Delta County. Above, Doug Leisenring, superintendent for the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District, speaks to the audience about the ISD’s task force action groups.

HARRIS — Community members and local dignitaries flocked to the Island Resort and Casino Thursday for The Legacy, the annual dinner supporting the Community Foundation for Delta County.

Thursday marked the 26th year of the event, which was formerly known as the “MASH/Good Deed” dinner, and the first dinner under the leadership of the foundation’s new executive director, Cheryl Andzejewski. After more than a decade at the foundation in various roles, Andzejewski was hired on as the director in June, following the retirement of former Executive Director Gary LaPlant.

“My job tonight is to welcome all you wonderful people, all of our donors, and to introduce our speakers so they can get up and talk about some very important issues and then we can have dinner,” said Andzejewski early in the evening.

The first guest speaker to take to the podium was Delta-Schoolcraft ISD Superintendent Doug Leisenring, who updated the dinner’s guests on a series of task force action groups created in the last year to help address issues such as school support, collaboration between agencies, teen engagement, and drug addiction in newborns. The groups were formed as a result of the ISD working with a third party to identify and address the needs of Delta and Schoolcraft counties.

“I told you about this crazy idea I had last October — that I stole from people that are a lot smarter than me,” said Leisenring, recalling his 2018 speech at the dinner.

According to Leisenring, the action groups have accomplished a number of goals in the past year, such as organizing trips to local attractions for teens and developing and training school staff in a protocol for students who have experienced a traumatic event outside the classroom.

The ISD received a $100,000 grant recently, which will be used for teacher training and to continue the task force program. In the coming year, Leisenring hopes to work more collaboratively with other community agencies working on similar projects and to better measure the impact the action groups are having on the community.

Following Leisenring’s presentation, Delta County Prosecutor Brett Gardner took to the podium to talk about the challenges and successes of the Delta County Child Advocacy Center.

“It’s amazing to me being involved in politics for many, many years in larger jurisdictions, drawing from a couple hundred thousand people — they could not fill a room like this with community spirit,” said Gardner.

According to Gardner, the child advocacy center is a place for children who were victims of abuse or neglect to tell their story in a safe, child-friendly atmosphere. Until recently, the forensic interviewing of child-victims was conducted by a child advocacy center based in Lower Michigan, but the system was less than ideal.

“While they did what they could, being run from downstate wasn’t good enough because (the) child advocacy center is for the community. It’s for the people in our community. It needs to be run by the people in our community, and people that are absentee — that doesn’t work. So we decided to take it over,” said Gardner.

With the help of local law enforcement, the Hannahville Indian Community, the Community Foundation, and volunteer labor, the child advocacy center began operating under the direction of the Delta County Prosecutor’s Office.

“We’re still volunteer, and we’ll be volunteer as long as it takes, but the goal … is to become independent; that we can take it and move it on to an independent resource that is totally operated — and this is what’s important to me — totally operated by the people of the U.P. We are not an independent operating (child advocacy center) right now, we are associated with (the Delta County Prosecutor’s Office),” said Gardner.

The third speaker of the night continued the theme of working for the benefit of the area’s young people. Dave Radloff, Community Foundation For Delta County Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) advisor, told those in attendance about the impact YAC has had on the youth involved in the program and the greater community.

“Basically, the YAC is a group of kids in our community doing good and having a whole lot of fun doing it,” said Radloff.

The YAC is a standing committee composed of youths between the ages of 12 and 21, two of whom are voting members on the Community Foundation for Delta County Board. The group’s main goals are philanthropy, community service, and leadership development.

One of the YAC’s primary roles is distributing funding earmarked by the Community Foundation for youth projects through a grant process. The amount earmarked for distribution through YAC is typically between $20,000 and $23,000 annually.

“To better assist them in understanding the needs of the community, the group conducts a needs assessment … every two years to identify emerging issues that are affecting youth in our community and identify programs and activities that are beneficial for the needs of their peers,” said Radloff.

Radloff said as the youth become more familiar with the grant process, they become more vocal and use critical thinking skills to make tough decisions about which programs should receive funding.

Radloff wrapped up his portion of the evening by telling the audience there are positions available on the YAC for new youth members.

“If you know some kids that need some leadership skills, want to have some fun, eat lots of pizza, and make a difference in their community make sure you see us and come get an application,” he said.


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