Our Mission

FFE supports the goals of the City of Kalamazoo, funds aspirational projects, and empowers Kalamazoo residents to achieve the lives they want for themselves and their families.

Our History

A municipality like Kalamazoo would traditionally navigate financial challenges by increasing taxes or cutting services. FFE was founded in 2017 as an innovative solution that will serve as a model for others.

Our Priorities

FFE funds projects in youth programming, parks, infrastructure, career development, transportation, economic and business support, and housing that touch every neighborhood in Kalamazoo.

Our Impact

FFE's impact begins and ends with residents. Residents identify needs and FFE funds projects and partnerships to address those needs and advance the transformational goals of Imagine Kalamazoo 2025.


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The Foundation for Excellence is proud to have been awarded Guidestar's 2021 Platinum Seal of Transparency, the highest level of recognition they offer.



Imagine a vibrant, prosperous, and equitable city, where people want to live, work, and raise families. Imagine being a more beautiful and livable city each year, more innovative and connected. Imagine having more jobs, less poverty, and opportunities for young people to the jump-start the lives they want. Since 2017, FFE has invested more than $120 million to make this vision possible.


Property Tax Savings

The 2017 decrease to 12 mills applied to all individuals and businesses that are subject to City property taxes, regardles of their income level, and are intended to be permanent.


Community Projects

These transformational investments include youth employment programs, neighborhood revitalization efforts, and small business incubation, to name a few.


Budget Stabilization

A stable city budget ensures that local government can deliver core services and plan for highly impactful and equitable community investments.


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"Kalamazoo can be a safe, beautiful place where everyone is living well, getting along, and where barriers and biases that keep people from succeeding in life have been eliminated."

- Charlene Taylor,
FFE Board of Directors

chris sargent

"We don’t have to let a historical inequity or a long-standing community problem exist forever just because it always has. There are resources available to make change and they’re even more effective when leveraged in partnership."

-Chris Sargent,
President & CEO, United Way of Battle Creek & Kalamazoo Region


“I see that people are willing to pay attention to the needs of the people in the community. I look out my window and see the work that’s done.”

-Raymond Ryan,
Northside Neighborhood Resident


“Schools aren’t going to teach us the things that [MyCITY] can provide us. It’ll prepare you for the real world.”

-Donovan Wilson,
2020 MyCITY Program Participant


Board of Directors

The FFE bylaws establish a 15-member Board of Directors. Ten members are stakeholder directors, each representing a community interest such as healthcare, education, or business. Five are City Directors, representing the City of Kalamazoo generally. These members include the Mayor, City Manager, two City Commissioners, and one At-Large representative from the city. Stakeholder and At-Large terms rotate every three years while City Directors serve for the duration of their employment or elected service. A significant initiative is undertaken to cultivate a Board that is largely representative of the community and that will add unique insights about every facet of Kalamazoo.

The FFE’s bylaws state that one-third of board positions expire each year, meaning there are opportunities annually for everyone in the community to participate. Board members are responsible for attending at least three meetings per year and contributing to the responsible and transparent operation of the foundation. There are no requirements on previous board membership or restrictions on who can apply, (though an overall percentage of city residents is required). Positions expire on June 30 each year and vacancies are announced along with application instructions in December.

Current Membership

James K. Ritsema, Acting President David Anderson Rachel Lonberg Von Washington, Jr.
Alisa Carrel, Treasurer Sandra Calderon-Huezo Alice Taylor Bobby J. Hopewell, Emeritus
Barbara Hamilton-Miller, Secretary Jeanne Hess Charlene Taylor  

Foundation for Excellence Staff

The City employs five full time positions to manage the governance of the foundation and administer its programs in collaboration with department staff and community partners. These positions includes Deputy City Manager Laura Lam, Foundation for Excellence Manager Steve Brown, Youth Development Coordinator Chad Wendt, Neighborhood Activator Dan Baisden, Shared Prosperity Coordinator Kevin Ford, and Grants Specialist Kerry Lyn Williams.  

City of Kalamazoo

Home to the Kalamazoo Promise, three institutions of higher education, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, cutting-edge medical research, world-class brewing and dining, outstanding parks, and an extensive variety of music, art, theatre, and cultural attractions.


 (269) 337-8000
 (269) 337-8182
 241 West South Street
     Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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