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Portage Health Foundation helping on front lines of local pandemic response

Portage Health Foundation Conference RoomHelping the four-county community is a lot more than just how much money Portage Health Foundation spends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the health-focused foundation has been assisting people in a great number of ways, and a lot more is still being worked on.

“For the second time in three years our community has been hit by a crisis like we’ve never seen before,” Executive Director Kevin Store said. “I can assure you that we’ve been working non-stop since med-February to assess the information presented in an effort to ensure PHF is able to provide intentful support if the time came that it is needed. The time has come.”

Store and the rest of the staff have been doing everything in their power to help. They moved deadlines back for scholarship and grant applications, reworked targeted requests for proposals, provided personal protective equipment to those in need, and have been a central hub for virtual collaboration of non-profits and governmental units.

Donations of PPE and Other Resources

The foundation has disbursed nearly $20,000 to support agencies in the four-county community to date.

From a personal protective equipment (PPE) perspective, PHF has procured a large shipment of KN95 masks that will be going out to its non-profit partners upon arrival. Hand sanitizer made and donated by Copper Queen Whiskey will also be provided to non-profits who are regularly in contact with the public.

Funds have gone to Keweenaw Family Resource Center to restock their Baby Closet for parents in need of diapers and other items for infants and toddlers.

“We’re working to make sure every family has the resources they need,” said Iola Brubaker, Executive Director of the Keweenaw Family Resource Center. “Without that donation, our baby closet would have been completely depleted.”

The Foundation is also well aware of the amplified food access needs while residents are adhering to the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders. Already it has funded food deliveries to families through 31 Backpacks and Ontonagon County Backpack Program. Resources were acquired and provided to Copper Country Senior Meals for their daily food delivery efforts.

Leading Collaboration

Each week representatives from about two dozen non-profit organizations and our funder community virtually gather for a meeting where they talk about what they are experiencing, what resource are needed to continue operations, and how they expect the coming days, weeks and months to play out for their organization.

“These calls have become a vital part of my week as we look to help our community in the best way we can,” said Carole LaPointe, Team Lead at the KBIC Niimigimiwang Transitional Home Programs & Services. “It’s a great group, and helpful to hear everything happening.”

The calls often include representatives from other funders such as the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and Superior Health Foundation. The region’s elected officials at the state level are also invited. By doing that, PHF is magnifying the region’s representation statewide, and showcasing the needs and efforts of our local non-profits. These meetings have enabled PHF to better assess the needs of our non-profits and small business communities.

Copper Country Strong

Portage Health Foundation has also been using human resources to help connect dots with area emergency management personnel and the Western U.P. Health Department. That led to the Copper Country Strong moniker being brought back. By visiting residents can find a thorough list of vetted local resources, see information on how to donate money and other resources to the cause, raise their hands to volunteer, and read daily briefings with the latest information coming out from counties, the Western U.P. Health Department, the education sector and area healthcare providers.

Moving Forward

To help fund these efforts and provide a way for those who are able to donate money to help in the recovery, a COVID-19 recovery fund has been established. More than $12,000 has been donated, covering just over half of the current expenditures PHF has incurred to date. Donations are being accepted at

The foundation is currently working with other community partners to assess the legal ability, design and implementation of a PHF COVID-19 Recovery Loan Program that may support the non-profit and small business community. We are also looking at the extent that the PHF may extend financial support considering recent market changes. Regardless, any offering will be advanced with the help of our community partners and donors.

Dr. Michelle Seguin, Director of Community Health, is currently working with other food system partners, community organizations and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to assess food access needs throughout the region. This collaborative effort aims to substantially expand emergent food access as well as influence the development of other food programs that will continue throughout the coming months.

Portage Health Foundation will continue working with many agencies, businesses and organizations to help out where possible in the short term, while also thinking through the long-term effect this will have on the four-county community. No matter what happens, PHF will stay true to its mission of supporting the charitable health needs of the community through enhanced philanthropy and community collaboration.

Support the Portage Health Foundation's response to the COVID-19 Pandemic by donating to the COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund

Michael H. Babcock

Michael H. Babcock