Early Years of the Albion Community Foundation

This is the second of several stories that lead up to the May 9, 2018, Albion Community Foundation Gala celebrating 50 years since the foundation started in Albion.


Contributing Writer
March 21, 2018

Improving lives in the Albion area has always been the core of the Albion Community Foundation since its inception 50 years ago.  Beginning with its first grant in 1970 to the City of Albion’s Youth Opportunities Department for summer youth employment programs, the heart of the ACF has been bettering the lives of community members.

Victor Burstein, Mayor of Albion 1966- 1973 photo source: http://isaackremer.com/albion/people/burstein_victor/

July, 1970, with only $2,000 in the previously named Albion Civic Foundation’s coffers, the ACF awarded its first $1,600 grant. The Youth Opportunities Department was an experimental effort that did not rely on tax dollars. The office was in the basement of the Albion City Hall and programming was under the Mayor’s Commission on Youth.  Mayor Vic Burstein established this office partly because the Earn, Learn and Play program of the late 1960s had ended leaving a shortage of summer jobs for local teenagers. Heading the department was William Spagnolo.

The program was aimed at preparing teens aged 13-18 to find summer employment by providing help in filling out job applications, dressing appropriately and preparing for successful interviews and landing jobs. Out of the 302 applicants, 192 teens found summer work and earned a total of $2,688 in July and August.

This program was made possible by Thomas Lloyd, ACF founder, according Frank Passic’s book, Presenting 25 Years of the Albion Civic Foundation, and set the stage for the foundations commitment to area youth.  In 1971 all grants were youth related including $300 to the city to assist in financing preparation of a special youth activities proposal.

That same year, the third ACF grant was $500 to the Drug Abuse Prevention Programs under the direction of the late Morley Fraser. The current foundation also focuses on youth and has established a Youth Advisory Council to guide the ACF in making choices on projects to enhance life for young people in the Albion area.

In the 1970s two parks and a library expansion were the major grants awarded by the foundation. In 1972 Bournelis Park was the ACF’s first venture into riverfront development. The corner park project at Cass and Superior streets downtown Albion was named for shoemaker Pete Bournelis whose business had occupied that site for 47 years. For that project the then owner of the property offered to sell the buildings and land to the city and demolish the structures for $9,000. The development of the downtown park cost an equal amount. The foundation assets provided $1,000 and Thomas Lloyd donated the remaining $8,000, along with additional funds from the Robert and Louise Miller Foundation in Battle Creek. Bournelis Park was dedicated on September 29, 1973 as part of the annual Festival of the Forks celebration.

In 1974 the owners of the old White Mill on the Kalamazoo River, which had been vacant for 17 years and heavily damaged by fire, offered to sell the building and land to the Albion Civic Foundation.  Located on East Cass Street and built in 1876 the mill was last of the water-powered businesses in Albion. Thomas Lloyd felt it was important for establishment of an Albion College-downtown business district corridor and development of the downtown river area.

“It is important,” Lloyd said at the time, “to put it to use in a way that would benefit the entire community, not a hotdog stand or a used car lot.” The foundation authorized the purchase of the property and demolition of the crumbling mill in September, 1974. The site would remain vacant for many years. Upon the 1978 death of the ACF founder the city successfully proposed to the foundation that the site be turned into a memorial to Thomas Lloyd.

Dedicated during the 1980 Festival of the Forks Lloyd Park was leased in 1983 to the city for a nominal fee. The riverfront park contained the stone foundation from the old White Mill as part of the split-level development which also included a canoe landing. In 1983 a bronze plaque was installed and dedicated to the memory of Thomas Lloyd, “industrialist and philanthropist, ardent citizen and visionary” who founded the Albion Civic Foundation.

In 1974 the foundation was the fund-handling agency for local money raised for the construction of an addition to the now Albion District Library. Plans called for a major 10,000 square-foot addition to the east side of the original 4,970 square-foot Carnegie Library building which was erected in 1903. The ACF contributed $21,000 toward the addition and $10,000 for establishment of a local history room. The project was completed in 1978 after four years of planning and construction. Foundation grants covered about one-fourth of the total library expansion cost of $55,000.

The ACF will celebrate these early projects and many decades of philanthropy to the greater Albion area, with a gala anniversary celebration on Thursday May 9. The cocktail-attire gala event begins at the Mary Sheldon Ismon House with a 5:30 pm hors d’oeuvres reception followed by a 6 pm buffet dinner. The celebration moves at 7:30 pm to the Bohm Theatre for a 50th Anniversary program, followed by dessert and an afterglow at Kids ‘N’ Stuff Children’s Museum. All of these gala celebration locations have been recipients of major ACF grants.

Read the 1st article in this series from the Recorder “Thomas Lloyd : Visionary”

Linda Kolmodin, Writer, Teacher, Fundraiser

Linda Kolmodin

Linda Jansen Kolmodin has been a resident of Albion since 1981. Originally from North Muskegon Michigan, she was a special education teacher for Olivet Community Schools for 18 years.   Since that time, public relations and writing have been the focus of Kolmodin’s work.

Most recently,  the successfully funded Coca-Cola mural restoration project for downtown Albion Michigan benefitted from the volunteer efforts of Linda Kolmodin.  She is involved in many Albion organizations including the Albion Community  Foundation and the Albion-Homer United Way.  She is a graduate of U of M, with a Master’s Degree from EMU in Special Education.

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