It was a little spark that led to a bigger and more crucial idea.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercer Island Community Fund (MICF) board of directors member Carolyn Counihan hatched the idea to help nonprofits on the Island during uncertain times.
MICF expanded its scope to include aiding small businesses and asked for assistance from leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation, Mercer Island Schools Foundation and the Stroum Jewish Community Center. Everyone put their full effort into the plan and word spread quickly across the Island.
Starting in March of 2020, the 35-year-old MICF led the WeLoveMI COVID-19 Relief Campaign, which raised more than $260,000 for local nonprofits and small businesses. In addition, the all-volunteer 14-member board awarded more than $56,000 in grants for COVID-19 relief to Island nonprofits.
For its vital work in making a difference in the community, MICF was named the Mercer Island City Council 2020 Community Member of the Year at the council’s July 20 meeting. The council has awarded a worthy Islander or organization with the honor for the last 30 years.
“MICF exemplifies the very best of our community. When the adverse impact of the pandemic was gripping our community along with the rest of the world, MICF board of directors were among the first to step up to organize the community and to help those most hurt by the pandemic,” said Mayor Benson Wong.
Wong added that MICF brought the community’s love and resiliency to the forefront with its campaign. Since its inception, MICF has raised more than $1 million for grants to community organizations in the arts, environment, community development, recreation services, education and health realms.
Councilmember Salim Nice said that when the pandemic hit, everybody wanted to lend a hand but weren’t sure how to step into action because of the stay-home and -safe orders. MICF was on the move and got the job done.
“We just want to thank you for everything you did to step up. You did it at the right time with the right amount of intensity. You brought a lot of light to 2020 when there was a lot of darkness,” said Nice, adding that MICF’s gathering of donations helped bring to life the Illuminate MI tree lighting during the holiday season.
Deputy Mayor Wendy Weiker praised MICF’s diligence in getting the community through the pandemic: “I know you’re always there in the background, and your volunteers and your donors and your supporters are just second to none in terms of keeping this community strong and healthy and vibrant.”
MICF board president Erin Krawiec said she and board of directors member Mary Ann Flynn were accepting the award on behalf of everyone who helped them along the way with the relief campaign. Krawiec said they are honored and humbled to receive the award.
“Thank you everybody for these amazing words of appreciation. It just really feels good for me, and I know that the rest of our board is watching this meeting right now and I know that everybody’s hearts are warm to hear such nice compliments,” said Krawiec, who acknowledged the MICF board, Island leaders and community members for their support in 2020.
Krawiec highlighted the city for proclaiming May 22, 2020 as WeLoveMI Day, and the Mercer Island High School international entrepreneurship class for helping with the relief campaign’s web development, press releases and marketing plan.
“The biggest thing that came out of it for our group was this new understanding of the power of a community coming together and collaborating,” said Krawiec, noting that MICF has granted $35,000 in 2021 with a chunk of it tagged for COVID-19 relief. The grant pool is made up entirely of community donations.
In the diversity, equity and inclusion realm, MICF has formed MI Community Connection in which they launched a community directory that includes more than 30 Island organizations. It can be accessed at https://www.micommunityfund.org/community-connection-directory.