Map of Southwest Michigan with heart
By Angela Graham

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.   —Coretta Scott King

Home is where the heart is. It’s a cliché but it also holds a lot of truth. For John Fetzer, Kalamazoo was home for most of his life. It is where he built his business, put down roots, and ultimately created the Institute that bears his name and advances his legacy. It is in this spirit that we are honored and excited to be turning our attention to our own backyard of Southwest Michigan. 

This reinvigorated focus will complement and integrate the work that we are doing nationally and internationally while celebrating and supporting the unique character of our community and region. John Fetzer was a citizen of the world who was concurrently deeply committed to the community in which he lived. The interplay between the local and the global will be an important aspect of what we intend to bring to our regional work.

Southwest Michigan can be defined many ways. Functionally, we will be starting with a focus on Kalamazoo as well as Three Rivers, where our retreat center, GilChrist, has been providing a place to reflect and renew for more than 25 years. We will also look north to Grand Rapids and east to Battle Creek.  

It is important to note that the Institute has, in fact, had an ongoing presence in Southwest Michigan. Through an array of sponsorships, special events, partnerships, and community giving through the John E. Fetzer Institute Fund at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, we have “shown up,” through the years and continue to do so, in a variety of places and ways.

This next chapter is intended to make a deeper commitment that is reflective of our mission. In these early stages of planning we are doing a lot of meeting, listening, and fine-tuning the questions that will guide this work. From how we show up as a responsible corporate citizen, to connecting our network of national partners with local agencies, to serving as a good neighbor, we are looking at all aspects of our resources—human, financial, and physical—as we determine how best our mission of helping to build a spiritual foundation for a loving world can be activated in the community we love and call home. 

Along those lines, some of the questions we are asking ourselves are: Where do our neighbors find a sense of meaning and purpose? Where and how do we experience interconnectedness? How do we see the sacredness in our fellow citizens? Where, despite differences, might we find common ground? We would love to hear which of these questions resonate with you!

Angela Graham is Fetzer's director of Southwest Michigan strategies.