Meet the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Staff

Foundation staff is good at helping you do good

We’ve spent several weeks introducing you to the Community Foundation Board. This week, we are providing a little insight into the staff who work at the Foundation.

“We are fortunate to have a talented, professional staff that work to enhance and inspire giving in all sectors of our community,” says Kelly Kirwan, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Board Chair. “Please take a moment to get to know the people who make that happen.”

Chris Fulton, Executive Director

There is a brick on the Yellow Brick Road of Central School in the center of Grand Rapids with the name “Fulton” on it and the words “All Roads Lead Home”. Such is the case for Chris Fulton. He grew up in Grand Rapids, headed off to West Point in 1977, and then started a 30 year adventure with the U.S. Army.

After fifteen moves, multiple deployments to exotic locales, and a variety of leadership and management experiences, he and his wife, Johnnie, decided to follow the road ‘home’ to Grand Rapids. His education includes a BS in Engineering from West Point, a MS in Physical Education from Indiana University, and a MA in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Chris also completed the Senior Executive Fellowship at the JFK School of Government at Harvard. As a military officer, he commanded Army units up through brigade-level, retiring as a Colonel.

Chris joined the Community Foundation as Executive Director in May, 2012 where he continues his career of service – this time, to the citizens and non-profit organizations in the Greater Itasca Area.

Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs

Sarah Copeland has been with the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation for almost two decades. As the Director of Grants and Programs, she leads and oversees the Foundation’s grants and scholarship programs and develops and maintains our marketing. Understanding the importance of relationships throughout the community, Sarah actively engages area schools, nonprofits, churches and other organizations. She holds a BA in Management from the College of St. Scholastica, serves on the SPARK! Governance Council and various other committees and boards throughout the community from workforce development to housing and education issues.

Prior to the Community Foundation, Sarah spent more than 15 years involved in the military community, in the United States and abroad. Throughout those years, she was involved with the first Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) Conference at Ft. Campbell, KY, the initiation of Family Support Groups (now FRGs), spouse development and other community and leadership roles.

Kim Thompson, Accountant

Kim has been with the Community Foundation since early 2001. Kim manages all the accounting operations at the Foundation. Including working with the Finance and Investment Committee, balancing the books, sending out statements, managing fiscal agent funds, and processing all contributions and much more.

Kim grew up in Bovey and attended Greenway high school. While raising her two children, Kim attended Itasca Community College and then Bemidji State University to pursue her accounting degree. Since then she has worked for other nonprofit organizations before making her home with the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation. Kim has also served on boards and committees in the Grand Rapids area.

Besides puns, Kim loves to knit, enjoys the outdoors and working in her yard, however, Kim’s greatest joy is spending time with family and friends, especially with her grandchildren.

If you have questions or needs when it comes to finances or making donations, Kim is the one to call.

Brianna Spry, Program Administrator

Brianna joined the team at the Community Foundation in 2014. As the Foundation's Program Administrator, Brianna handles all crisis grants, and conducts most of the day-to-day activities involved in the scholarship program and Annual Grant Cycle.

Brianna graduated from Itasca Community College in 2003 with her AAS in Business Management. Born and raised in Deer River, she is honored to serve the Greater Itasca Area in a variety of ways. Brianna lives in Cohasset with her husband and their two children. She and her family love to spend time outdoors on their Mississippi River property and play outside throughout Northern Minnesota.

Cathy Sayward, Administrative Assistant

Cathy joined the staff at the Community Foundation in the fall of 2017. As Administrative Assistant, she provides support to the rest of the staff to help keep things rolling smoothly. Cathy’s the first friendly face you’ll see when you come through our door and she looks forward to welcoming you!

Although comparatively new to the Foundation, she is not new to the community. Cathy, her husband, and their young family moved to Grand Rapids over 30 years ago from Maine to purchase and manage Itasca Greenhouse, Inc. in Cohasset. In addition to assisting with the day-to-day management and administration of the greenhouse, Cathy was active in the community as a soccer mom, Volunteer Coordinator at Murphy Elementary School and assisted with the Boy Scouts for their three sons. She obtained her BS degree in Communication Disorders from the University of New Hampshire and her MA in Audiology from the University of Connecticut. Cathy lives in Arbo with her husband, where she enjoys long walks and gardening.

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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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