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Coming Together to Get Through Pandemic | PHF Annual Report Story

April 14, 2022 | By Michael H. Babcock

The Portage Health Foundation (PHF)'s annual report from Fiscal Year 2020 was recently released. Over the coming weeks a series of feature articles from the publication will be posted on the PHF website. You can see a PDF of the full report at If you'd like a copy of this report mailed to you, email

Thursday morning conversations for non-profits were all over the place. One non-profit director might announce they were a grandparent for the first time, another might boast about recently receiving a federal loan to cover their payroll, while a third might discuss how masking policies were going at their facility. The conversations were useful, inspiring and at times simply uplifting.

WiFi Hotspot lake LindenLike many other sectors, our local non-profit agencies struggled during the pandemic. It was hard. But every Thursday morning they called in and had a circle of others who they could talk through the issues with. For some it opened doors. Others left the conversations motivated. Everyone became closer to the others on the call. Personal connections are hard to make digitally, but in 2020 that’s what happened with these weekly calls.

PHF board and staff members had to adjust like everyone else with the onset of the pandemic. Staying true to our mission we worked to positively influence a healthier community through enhanced philanthropy and collaboration. That started with the weekly calls and the creation of the COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund. In total more than a half million dollars was spent.

COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund

PHF created this restricted fund for the purpose of mobilizing resources for the citizens of Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties. It aimed to give donors seeking an official conduit to contribute to relief efforts. We received, recorded, held and dispersed all monies contributed to this restricted fund for health/humanitarian relief of residents. The money was used to help offset non-federally covered expenses for municipalities, citizens and other relief efforts as determined appropriate. Below is a quick look at what was done as of August 1, 2021. Most of these expenses were done well before the calendar year flipped. Read more

WiFi Network - $3,800

With coffee shops and public libraries not available to visit and it being unsafe to visit family or friends, many people suddenly found themselves without access to the internet. PHF partnered with Baraga Telephone Company, REMC1 and Peninsula Fiber Network to create a network of WiFi Hotspots where people could park their cars and access the internet free of charge. Read more

Non-Profit Support – More than $25,000

This money helped 31 Backpacks purchase more food, Copper Country Senior Meals delivered meals safely, provided personal protective equipment, assisted in fundraising efforts through Read for Relief at Portage Lake District Library, restock the baby closet shelves at Keweenaw Family Resource Center and more. 

Mobile Food Pantries - $66,000

Partnering with Feeding America West Michigan we brought 15 mobile food pantries to Michigan’s Copper Country. These events helped hundreds of families keep fresh food at the table when times were challenging. 

Improve COVID-19 Testing Capacity - $142,359

Our community had COVID-19 testing available quickly thanks to Michigan Technological University, and as demand picked up, we were able to help them double the number of tests that went through their clinic daily. That led to quicker results, more tests being processed, better control of outbreaks and ultimately was a great tool for our community to get through the pandemic safer. Read more

Donations to Local School Districts - $428,450

One of the hardest hit areas of our community was local school districts. PHF helped make sure they were able to offer as high quality of an experience as possible with donations to every public school in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties. Read more

Michael H. Babcock

Michael H. Babcock