June 01, 2021

Betsy Petoskey

by Elizabeth (Betsy) Petoskey, AAACF Board Chair

As summer starts, we have many new beginnings to celebrate, including the freedom to be out exploring our neighborhoods in ways we were unable to do last year. We are rediscovering treasured gems in our community and resuming traditions of celebrating life’s transitions, such as weddings and graduations. As a Foundation, we are reshaping a strategic plan for the new landscape. As we do that, we also celebrate traditions, such as transitions in the Board of Trustees.

I have been involved with the Foundation for most of my long professional career, including serving on former professional advisory committees and working with donors whose charitable interests can be met through the Foundation. I have also worked with a fund supporting Pioneer High School, and I am now a member of the Community Investment Committee—which has the challenging task of determining grantees, in addition to my new role as Board Chair (as of May 2021). All of these roles have brought me deep satisfaction in the work the Foundation does to enrich the quality of life in our community and have given me a comprehensive view of its impact.

When I joined the Board a few years ago, I was impressed by how involved Trustees are on the many committees serving the Foundation and our constituents. The most striking aspect not only to me but to each new Trustee joining this group of dedicated community members is the incredible leadership. Tim Wadhams was Board Chair in my first year, and I quickly learned that Trustees who preceded me had set us up for success with a leadership pipeline from Michelle Crumm through Tim Wadhams then Doug Weber, who continues to serve the Foundation as a Trustee and Immediate Past Chair. These leaders were instrumental in the Foundation’s remarkable success in implementing a five-year strategic plan (2015-20) to work in new ways to impact our community.

Philanthropy has always been at the center my life, right next to family—and sometimes those roles have intertwined. My father, Chris McKenney, also served as a Foundation Board Member for two separate terms across different decades, and I am pleased to continue our family tradition of dedication to the Washtenaw County community in this way. In addition to volunteer service, my husband Bill and I have thought it was important to create an unrestricted fund (called a Community Impact Fund) in our names.

Serving on the Community Investment Committee, I see firsthand the impact of how dozens of named Community Impact Funds (which start at $5,000) pool together to meaningfully support our community. These funds also provide a way to pay tribute to others, as I also know firsthand. Our family established a fund in my mother’s name (the Linda Lofberg McKenney Fund) to honor her lifelong dedication to her home town.

Much has changed in our community and the Foundation since my father was Chair and even since I first served as a volunteer. I’m humbled and honored to carry on a tradition of service during a time of unprecedented change for our community. New beginnings and continued transitions—the Foundation is here for it all, thanks to committed citizens who love this community.