February 17, 2021

James W. (Jim) and Marla J. Gousseff loved the Ypsilanti community where they had resided since 1963—deeply engaging during their lifetimes and leaving a lasting impact through a $1.8 million estate gift to the Ypsilanti Area Community Fund (YACF), the sole affiliate fund of AAACF, realized in December 2020.

The dedicated professional couple were deeply involved in many Ypsilanti nonprofits as volunteers, board members, and donors. Jim, who passed away in 2014, was a professor of communications and theater arts at Eastern Michigan University for 35 years. In addition to her dedicated volunteer work, Marla was an occupational therapist, including at EMU’s Rackham School and New Horizon Educational Center of Ypsilanti Public Schools.

Before she passed in 2019, Marla established a bequest through the Community Foundation to create seven new permanent endowment funds to benefit Ypsilanti. The central unrestricted fund, the James W. and Marla J. Gousseff Fund, will support YACF’s annual grantmaking. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, YACF will make greater strides through this largest contribution in its history towards its vision for impact:

Every family in the Ypsilanti area will thrive by gaining access to programs and services through collaborative partnerships across sectors that measurably increase health outcomes and educational attainment leading to economic well-being.

In addition to the named YACF Community Impact Fund, six named endowments have been established through the Gousseff estate gift to benefit local nonprofits:

  • Corner Health Center
  • Riverside Art Center
  • Salvation Army of Washtenaw County
  • SOS Community Services
  • Ypsilanti District Library
  • Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels

Through these endowments, the Gousseffs created a reliable, perpetual source of revenue for these organizations, much like retirement funds do for individuals. Donors can establish nonprofit endowment funds as a way to “annuitize their annual giving” in perpetuity for beloved nonprofits they have supported during their lifetimes by leveraging the Community Foundation’s expertise in endowment management.

Marla and Jim Gousseff made measurable impact on their Ypsilanti community during their lifetimes, and through their incredible estate gift they will continue to make a lasting difference. These new endowments will make an impact on each of the nonprofits as well as the Ypsilanti area as a whole through the YACF Community Impact Fund. The Community Foundation and the YACF Advisory Committee are honored to uphold the Gousseff’s legacy for generations to come.