Why People Give

The growth of an Endowment

The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation has over 280 stories to tell about individual donors in the community who have made a direct impact. Dorothy Kennedy’s vision and commitment started it, with the Teen Sharing Fund in 1999 that lives on as the Endowed Sharing Fund.

What was the Teen Sharing Fund and how did it start?

What was the Teen Sharing Fund and how was it financed? The Teen Sharing Fund was established in 1999 with a monthly pledge by Dorothy Kennedy. “Dorothy’s generous spirit and determination to help our youth is a wonderful example of how one person can have a life long impact on our community,” says Chris Fulton, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Executive Director.

After serving her community as a volunteer for many years, Dorothy wanted to do more for area youth. To better understand what was being done to help youth, she went to the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation in search of answers.

Pat Radecki, the Board Chair of the Community Foundation at the time, and Dorothy talked to social service people, local police and sheriff departments, school counselors, and the program director of the only local organization who worked with teens. What she discovered about the needs of our area youth sent her into action.


Imagine a young man who spent his teens in foster care. He turned 18 while in a group home and found out that foster care was releasing him. He had no family to assist him as he moved toward self-reliance, so his social worker helped him find a local job and a small apartment. However, his job required some nice clothes, and his closet consisted of three pairs of jeans and one pair of old tennis shoes. Where could he turn?

His social worker contacted an organization that works with teens, and they called the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation that had resources available from the Teen Sharing Fund. A voucher for new clothing and shoes set the young man up within hours so he could go to his first job with confidence.

A little goes a long way

Personally pledging a donation to help teens on a monthly basis, Dorothy also went out and talked to friends in her church and other groups to which she belonged. She encouraged them to “make a covenant” to give monthly to this fund, so life could be better for teens in the Itasca Area. Dorothy Kennedy lived her values.

With Dorothy Kennedy’s and her friends’ small donations, the Teen Sharing Fund was born. Between 1999 and her death in 2005 at the age of 92, Dorothy’s passion resulted in over 120 youth receiving small grants for immediate needs from $10 to $300.

  • A $35 grant provided a teen with the support she needed to complete an electrical certification, so she could get a job and support herself.

  • $280 provided a teen with the auto repair he needed to get to class and graduate from high school.

  • A simple grant of $10 provided a teen with the fee she needed to take a (dreamed about) shop class.

Dorothy Kennedy’s vision lives on through the Endowed Sharing Fund

As a final testament to her big heart and generous spirit, Dorothy Kennedy left a gift to the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation in her will for $20,000 to continue her legacy of helping those in need. Dorothy’s legacy and passion lives on through the Endowed Sharing Fund at the Community Foundation. Hannah Hetteen’s planned gift added to the Endowed Sharing Fund. Herold Unger’s planned gift added to the Endowed Sharing Fund. Along with a few other gifts, the Endowed Sharing Fund has grown, and recently provided over $15,000 in grants to local organizations for programs to help youth, elderly and others in need throughout our community. Because of the Community Foundation’s investment, the Endowed Sharing Fund will provide over $20,000 in 2019. Dorothy made the Community one of her heirs, and her bequest ensured it would continue.

An endowment gives back every year

Dorothy was one person with an idea to help make our community a better place for everyone. By bringing her idea to the Community Foundation, and starting the Endowed Sharing Fund, she planted a seed. Next year, that seed will have grown to provide more grants (over $22,000 in 2019) with just the endowment earnings. That’s more than the total amount she initially planted. Because the Endowed Sharing Fund is endowed, the fund will continue to grow and provide more than $20,000 in grants back to the community every year.

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