Irving S. Gilmore Foundation

Center Stage Theatre

Center Stage Theatre began in 1974 as Comstock Community Theatre. Since then, the mission has always been to create a safe environment where families and individuals of all lifestyles can enjoy the world of theater together. Center Stage Theatre is unique because we do not make cuts during the audition process. No matter what the level of experience or differing ability, everyone who auditions and commits to the rehearsal schedule is given a place on our stage. This inclusiveness does not diminish but adds to the quality of our productions. Extending the inclusiveness to our audiences, Center Stage Theatre produces both a sensory friendly and an ASL interpreted performance of each show.

Our season begins with a fall youth show for 6–18-year-olds. We celebrate the holidays with an all-age cabaret. An adult show for those 16 and older is staged in February. Our largest show is our summer family musical in July. The multi-generational cast for this show often tops 125 members.

After being given the opportunity to shine on our local stage, Center Stage Theatre
graduates have gone on to shine on and off Broadway, star in traveling shows, light up
the field of technical theatre, produce, direct, and manage other community theatres.
Center Stage Theatre is thankful for the volunteers, on and off the stage, who give their
time, effort, and passion to the production of each show. Without them, we would not
have been putting the “community” in community theatre for almost 50 years.

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Gull Lake Community Schools

Gull Lake Community Schools is delighted to be in a new space dedicated to K-12 fine arts programs and guest artist performances that enrich the lives of the school community. The Gull Lake Center for the fine arts (GLCFA) showcases a variety of events that bring the community together in an intimate environment that engages the senses and encourages participants to communicate with purpose. This new space was designed to elevate the art of presentation in multiple modes and formats. It can host any event ranging from an elementary matinee to a world- class symphony or musical.
Fifteen full-time Fine Arts educators collaborate with a full time auditorium manager to bring student performances to the stage. Community members and guests can find events and procure tickets through the district website and GLCFA box office. Guest artists and ensembles are marketed to the local community and regional arts organizations and foundations. The new space is attracting attention from a variety of professional groups who find it to be an ideal venue featuring state-of-the-art technology and exceptional acoustics that enhance any performance.
The new Gull Lake Center for the Fine Arts is the realization of a dream that began growing over three decades ago. It has been a true collaboration involving a talented and diverse coalition of individuals who were able to articulate the vision and sustain focus to see this project through to completion. It is a rare occasion when a teaching and learning space can serve everyone in a community. The Gull Lake Center for the Fine Arts accomplishes this purpose beautifully and is serves as a beacon to the future of fine arts in the Richland area and surrounding community.

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The Kalamazoo Community Chorale

The Kalamazoo Community Chorale completed its 89th season in 2022 under the direction of Jacqueline Stilger. We are a women’s choir that welcomes members seeking an opportunity to be involved in choral music without the requirement of an audition or an extensive musical background. Our central focus is to provide area women the chance to participate in the fellowship of song for educational and non-professional purposes. Our membership averages between 50-65 women of different ages from very diverse backgrounds. We perform secular and sacred pieces at two admission-free concerts annually that are open to the public. We also perform at community events, public organizations and private facilities. The group often features local musicians to provide additional accompaniment at our concerts. Another important facet of the Chorale’s activities is that we provide scholarships to qualifying college students with a major or minor in music. In addition to assisting them with their school expenses, the students gain the experience of rehearsing and performing outside of the academic world, but still within the local area. In return, they greatly contribute to our ensemble with their energy, talent and enthusiasm for choral singing. The benefits of sharing the joy of music are many and we look forward to continuing to share it with our membership and the community.

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan

For more than 100 years nationally and 65 years locally, Big Brothers Big Sisters has created and supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between volunteer mentors (Bigs) and children (Littles).

When kids are paired with a mentor, they’re introduced to places and experiences that open their hearts and minds to a future filled with boundless possibilities. After just one year of being paired with their Big:
• 85% of Littles report improved academic performance
• 87% of Littles report improved emotional regulation
• 94% of Littles report avoiding situations that could limit their future success
On top of all of this, Littles report having stronger relationships with their parent/guardians and peers, decreased depressive symptoms, and improved outlook for their education post-high school. “When I first met [my Big Brother], he got me out of my comfort zone,” shares Damarieon, Little Brother. “He’s like my best friend, actually.”

When people consider the impact of mentoring, they often think about the impact it has on the youth—not the adult. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, the mentoring relationship impacts every participant—adults included! “We get as much, if not more out of it, than we give. It gets us out exploring things that appeal to younger people,” shares Paul, Big Brother.

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Ecumenical Senior Center

The Ecumenical Senior Center has provided services to the senior citizens of Kalamazoo County for nearly 40 years. We were founded on the principle of removing barriers for African American seniors who would otherwise have difficulty obtaining services, as well as having a central place to gather. Nearly 95% of the seniors we serve today are African American, and a majority live at or below poverty level. Many reside in subsidized housing or are housed at Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries. ESC strives to enhance the quality of life of our clients in many aspects, particularly by providing services, activities, and resources that allow them to age with dignity.

We are proud to offer a wide array of support to our clients. All our programming and services are free or minimal cost. This includes breakfast and donation-based lunch programs, transportation to area grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor appointments, and other services, incontinence supplies and other medical equipment, as well as free weekly cosmetology services.

As our clientele has grown over the years, utilizing the 4,000 square foot programming space (largely out of one single room) has become increasingly difficult. We officially kicked off a 4.2 million dollar capital campaign last July in an effort to better serve seniors in the community. This will include a complete remodel of our historic building and a two-story addition that will feature a dedicated health and wellness area, a larger kitchen, and additional programming space and offices. Support from the community has been tremendous, and we look forward to the project’s fruition.

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Can-Do Kalamazoo

Can-Do Kalamazoo (formerly Can-Do Kitchen) began in 2008 with an entrepreneurial spark – building a missing piece of the local food system so that food producers could meet the growing customer demand for local products. In the years since, we have launched, pivoted, and sustained many valuable programs for food business owners. However, due to the nonlinear journeys of entrepreneurs, we became more engaged with other business support partners in our ecosystem. This led to our expanded scope to become a highly collaborative, one-stop incubator and enterprise hub, positioned to guide entrepreneurs through idea, launch, and growth. In coordination with many partners, we will support entrepreneurs along their business development journeys, with a focus on marginalized and under-resourced entrepreneurs.

Can-Do Kalamazoo has recently secured a larger and more centralized location (519 S. Park St.) for our incubation and hub activities. When fully renovated, our new site will offer many new amenities allowing us to host entrepreneurial networking events, startup and accelerator programs, open office hours with business coaches, pop-up events, and more. In 2020, our Opening New Doors Capital Campaign was launched, and despite the disturbances of COVID-19, the $650,000 goal was reached in 2022. Phase 1 of construction is underway! The need to move is urgent, so when the kitchens and a few offices are complete, we will move out of our current Lake Street facility.

In order to fulfill the needs of our expanded scope, we are embarking on phase 2 of our capital goal of $1.4 million. Phase 2 will include conference rooms, coworking spaces, multipurpose event space, classroom, and CDK staff offices. With the successful completion of our phase 2 capital goal, Can-Do Kalamazoo can fully be the “hub” that is so needed by our community’s entrepreneurs. We are optimistic that this can be accomplished by the close of 2023!

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SLD Read

Literacy is vital to building strong communities. From social determinants of health to equitable school funding; from vocational readiness to disability access, literacy affects every aspect of a person’s individual life outcomes—including familial and generational outcomes. Yet, each year, over one million 4th graders are added to the list of people who are unable to read in America.

SLD Read’s vision is a community working together for literacy that empowers all individuals to achieve their full potential. For nearly 50 years, we have been supporting people with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, on their journey to improved literacy. Our 1:1 personalized tutoring services are rooted in the science of reading, focused on explicitly teaching how sounds and letters go together to create words. Our lessons are multisensory, structured, explicit, cumulative, and sequential (working from the simplest elements of our language to the most complex). Programming is offered in both the school and community setting.

SLD Read is also dedicated to creating systemic change within the educational system by supporting educators in learning skills and techniques to enhance their reading curriculum and support students with word-related learning disabilities in their classrooms. We also work to raise awareness and reduce stigma around learning disabilities by providing community workshops that promote literacy and increase understanding.

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Read and Write Kalamazoo

Founded in 2012, Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) is a nonprofit organization devoted to nurturing intellectual and creative confidence in youth in Kalamazoo County through creative writing workshops, camps, in-school programs, after school programs and community partnerships.
RAWK exists to celebrate and amplify youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills via joy, creativity, equity, and access. We bring a supportive community to young people to give them safe and positive spaces to learn and grow.
Because language is living, fluid and cultural, traditional assessments of achievement often do not accurately reflect true knowledge. We aim to celebrate and amplify authentic voice in the specific context of each youth’s cultural identity, while remaining mindful of the practical and social capital resulting from the use of academic language. We approach all work with youth through a trauma-informed lens and commit to being anti-racist/bias in all we do. We want to eliminate barriers to educational resources so all youth can use their words and tell their own story.

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City of Kalamazoo Holiday Events

Downtown Kalamazoo came alive with the sights and sounds of the season in December 2022. To kick off the holiday season, Santa and Mrs. Claus joined residents at the annual tree lighting ceremony and took a stroll with the Mayor through the iconic Candy Cane Lanes as Bronson Park lit up with thousands of lights.
This was just one of the many holiday events supported through the generosity of the Irving S Gilmore Foundation. Santa’s Workshop provided a safe and fun way to celebrate the season and make sure Santa got wish lists from more than 4,000 children in time to deliver. Downtown merchants held special events to celebrate with residents and the pedestrian mall was lit up with more than 80,000 lights. Residents were also allowed to ride in style as the Holly Jolly Trolley provided free transportation across the Downtown network. It truly was a season to remember – community-building at its best – and residents and visitors alike kept the Kalamazoo holiday tradition alive this year.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

Since 1988, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has collaborated with local and national stakeholders to invest in Kalamazoo County, contributing over $140 million in outside investment in Kalamazoo’s core neighborhoods in the form of grants, low-income tax credits, new market tax credits, small business lending capital, and federal and state funding. As a comprehensive Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), LISC works across sectors to address the interconnected factors that influence inequality of opportunity.

LISC’s comprehensive programmatic approach combines people and place-based efforts, which we conduct with and through a local network of community-based partners, with the ultimate goal of making Kalamazoo County a great place to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. We do this by:
• strengthening existing alliances while building new collaborations to increase our impact on the progress of people and places;
• developing leadership and the capacity of partners to advance our work together;
• equipping talent in underinvested communities with the skills and credentials to compete successfully for quality income and wealth opportunities;
• investing in businesses, housing and other community infrastructure to catalyze economic, health, safety and educational mobility; and
• driving local, regional, and national policy and system changes that foster broadly shared prosperity and well-being.

In 2022, LISC leveraged local support to secure $8 million in additional resources for Kalamazoo County.

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