Portage Health Foundation gives community updates on grants

HOUGHTON — A series of recent interactions challenged Portage Health Foundation Executive Director Kevin Store to ask himself a few questions: Why are we doing this? Are we on the right path? Are we making a difference?

“It would seem that it would be easy to give out money, but on one hand, we’re maintaining and balancing the needs of the community, and at the same time fulfilling our obligation to be forward-thinking to ensure this resource is here for the long haul,” he said.

Store gave an overview of the foundation and its projects at a community update breakfast Wednesday.

The foundation wants to keep people up to date on what it is doing Store said, and let people know the fund is being administered in a way that makes sense.

“We’re trying to not only bring the pieces of the puzzle and resources that exist now, but also identify where the gaps are, so we can build that,” he said.

Addressing people who have told him funds should be spent only within Houghton County, Store said the state’s attorney general office had given them a mandate for granting within not just Houghton, but also Baraga, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.

After Portage Health was acquired and became for-profit, the foundation was reincorporated as a charitable community foundation. From an asset base of $29.6 million directly following the sale, it has grown to $65 million as of December 2017.

PHF’s operating budget is based on taking 3.5 percent of a 12-quarter rolling average of the investment portfolio. For 2018, that equates to an operating budget of $2.24 million.

“I can tell you that that is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of this community, and we’ve been working hard over the last two-and-a-half to three years to identify other institutional partners to bring more money into our community without competing with the existing organizations that are here now,” he said.

PHF has put nearly $6.6 million for goods, services and grants into the local economy. Since the start of 2015, PHF has granted more than $4.1 million, and is on track to spend $600,000 by the end of the first quarter.

Those grants have helped to create an additional 10 full-time-equivalents at Dial Help, four new law enforcement officers through of UPSET West and a child advocate at the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home, Store said.

“The investment has maintained critical services, expanded and started new programs, provided educational scholarships and has leveraged other donors to invest in our community,” he said.

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