Isabella Group Gives Its Final Donations

October 22, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Isabella Foundation recently donated $1.6 million, collectively, to Porter Hills Retirement Communities & Services, Clark Retirement Community and Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community as its final philanthropic disbursement.

Conditions to the donations are that they be used to provide benevolent support to residents of those communities whose means are limited and that the funds are designated as the “Isabella Foundation Benevolent Fund,” according to a news release.

The Isabella Foundation’s precursor, the Isabella Home for Aged Women, was built in the 1920s and provided housing and meals for life to “worthy, aged” women for a modest fee. In the 1960s the home wanted to add nursing beds but could not because the home’s reinforced concrete construction would not allow the corridors to be widened as required by the state.

At that time, the Isabella Home’s board of trustees learned of Porter Hills’ plans to build a community for older adults and decided to give Porter Hills $300,000 in seed money with the agreement that when the facility opened, it would provide life-long care for the women who were then living at Isabella Home. Thus, a decades-long relationship between the Isabella Foundation and Porter Hills began.

Porter Hills received $900,000 from the Isabella Foundation — and the money is necessary, according to Anne Benson, vice president of development for Porter Hills Foundation.

“On average, we must raise at least $500,000 a year to supplement residents in our communities who have exhausted their resources and need financial assistance,” said Benson, who explained that due to older adults living longer, many have run out of money to pay their living expenses. “We are so appreciative of the Isabella Foundation and its board for this generous gift.”

Over the past 40 years, the Isabella Foundation has donated between $75,000 and $90,000 annually to a variety of organizations that support older adults, including Senior Neighbors, God’s Kitchen, Meals on Wheels and the three organizations that received the final bequest.

Speaking of the $400,000 Clark Retirement Community received, development director Glenn Lowe also expressed his appreciation: “Our promise to provide continuous care to our residents, even should they outlive their financial resources, is a great source of security and confidence.

“However, the cost of fulfilling this promise continues to increase — last year, the cost exceeded $1.1 million. The income from this gift will help tremendously.”

Pilgrim Manor received $300,000 from the Isabella Foundation. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, who is president of Pilgrim Manor, echoed the sentiments of the other two organizations, pointing to the value of establishing a specific benevolent fund for residents under financial strain.

“Many of us have parents who live in a community like Pilgrim Manor, and we of the baby-boomer generation will be facing this soon enough ourselves,” he said. “This is a wonderful gift and so greatly needed.”

This past summer the Isabella Foundation’s board decided to dissolve the organization and make one final disbursement of its assets. Calvin P. Owen, who was president of the foundation’s board, said the trustees were getting older, with no replacement prospects in sight, and knew that this final bequest would continue the purpose of the foundation.

One of the conditions for the bequest is for each of the organizations to create a separate fund called the “Isabella Foundation Benevolent Fund.” Owen explained its two-fold purpose.

Porter Hills Retirement Communities & Services provides living environments and services for nearly 1,000 older adults of all faiths in nine different communities throughout Kent County, as well as through its in-home service agencies. Six of the nine communities are specifically for older adults with limited financial resources.

Clark Retirement Community provides residence and care to more than 500 older adults from independent living through skilled nursing. Established in 1906, the organization now operates two campuses — the original site on Franklin Street and one on Keller Lake. 

Pilgrim Manor is a retirement community affiliated with the United Church of Christ serving 150 residents from a variety of faith traditions. Residential options range from independent living to assisted living, and include a skilled nursing health center.

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