Dear Friends of The Pokagon Fund: It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation as Executive Director of The Pokagon Fund, effective June 7, 2019.  Responsibilities related to family require that I be in Grand Rapids full time.

The past four years have been some of the best of my professional life, primarily due to the broadminded, receptive and impartial approach The Pokagon Fund Board has taken in its strategic visioning, coupled with the creativity and commitment of the charitable organizations and municipalities that have striven with resolve and compassion to improve the lives of the persons they serve.

During my tenure, the recognition by the Board of support for education as a key goal brought a collaboration with Education Trust-Midwest to offer literacy training for teachers and has also provided significant reading resources to the children of Dowagiac, Hartford and South Bend. The role of the Fund in the establishment of Neighbor by Neighbor to help struggling residents of Harbor Country connect with social services they need along with the Fund’s continuing support of food programs have been key elements in the Board’s strategy to focus on family economic security.  The Board also fostered leadership development by identifying, nominating and financially supporting local candidates for the Leadership Accelerator Program in Southwest Michigan. There is also a heightened desire to reach beyond our service area to partner with diverse private and public entities to benefit the region.

The Board’s commitment to community vitality has been at the forefront of The Pokagon Fund’s efforts during my four years and has resulted in significant support for the renovation of downtown New Buffalo, full funding for the renovation of the New Buffalo Township Hall, support for parks throughout Harbor Country, and continuing assistance for the arts. Most recently, the Board’s decision to support a Community Needs Assessment has produced a cross-municipal collaborative that should lead to revitalization for the area as well as three community-based committees addressing rural broadband, a community center and greater housing options.

In collaboration with The Pokagon Fund Board and the Council of Michigan Foundations, I will help to identify a small pool of candidates who have professional expertise within the philanthropic and community development realm.

Once I have transitioned back to Grand Rapids, The Pokagon Fund will continue to support the community through the efforts of its Board of Directors and current staff.  John Krsul will manage the office until a new Executive Director has been hired and Kaaren Cass will continue to maintain our grant-making process.

Please stay connected, and thank you, again.  It has been such a pleasure to work with you.


Janet Cocciarelli

Executive Director

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