Family, faith, and a love of their hometown, are at the root of generosity and community involvement that will leave a legacy for Nancy Griffin and her late husband, Robert (Bob).
“Our roots are very deep with our community. Our grandchildren are the sixth generation to live in Ogemaw County,” says Nancy. “I have always been very proud of our community and how so many are always willing to step forward for projects.”
Giving is very personal, and when we give, we give to what matters most to us. This is true for Nancy and Bob as well, who decided to use the North Central Michigan Community Foundation as an avenue for charitable giving and community involvement. What is unique in this story is how Nancy gets involved in that giving by actively encouraging others to give, and championing local projects. She believes people are always willing to help their communities if they are just asked. So she asks, and she steps up herself.
When asked what motivates her generosity and willingness to get involved in local projects, Nancy recalls her family. Her dad, a U.S. Veteran, was the Chief of the Fire Department for 40 years and also served as Mayor. Her grandmother, mother and Nancy have all volunteered for the Girl Scouts. She also says her husband Bob, who passed away in 2019, was an incredibly generous person, always willing to help and grateful for all the community has given to them. That mindset and giving spirit are making a difference in their hometown of West Branch, Michigan, particularly for Ogemaw students, a local museum, and her church.
Nancy and Bob both grew up in the West Branch area and began dating when Nancy was in 10th grade and were married seven years later, right after Nancy’s graduation from Michigan State University. While she taught at a few different area schools, including her own alma mater, West Branch High School, Bob was offered the opportunity to buy into the beer business where he was working. The business grew, expanded, and eventually divided by mutual agreement in 1978. The Griffins now owned the newly named Griffin Beverage Company, and by this time Nancy had left her teaching position to help run and grow the business. Their son, Robert Jr., now runs the company after working closely with his father for several years. Headquartered in West Branch, the distributor has grown successfully with five locations.
“I remember holding a Christmas party at our home with about 14 other people, including spouses. As we grew the business over the years, we needed to add warehouses, more trucks, and of course, more employees,” says Nancy. “Bob and I always had the desire to share our blessings with our community, and worked hard together for many years to build what enabled us to give back. Every gift is still a joint effort.”
Nancy became involved with the North Central Michigan Community Foundation (NCMCF) nearly 15 years ago as a board and committee member, acting as an avid ambassador and encouraging others to use the Foundation to support their communities in perpetuity. Now, several funds bear the generosity and involvement of Nancy and Bob, shaped by their passion for family, community and faith.
At the heart of Nancy’s favorite causes is family. As it is for many, church is an extension of family, and St. Joseph Catholic Church in West Branch was the religious base for the Griffins. It was where Nancy and Bob have been lifelong members; where they received all their Holy Sacraments, including marriage; and is the church in which their children (Lori and Robert Jr.) were raised.
In 2020, Nancy followed through with her and her husband’s plan to open the Bob and Nancy Griffin Fund for St. Joseph Catholic Church to support the place and religious community that has been such an integral part of their lives.
“Through my involvement with NCMCF, Bob and I came to understand the ongoing value of endowed funds and were comfortable with the organization, and we decided we wanted to give back to our parish,” says Nancy. “We believe the Community Foundation has high standards, and that made us feel it is a safe place to put donations. We liked that we could tailor how it would be used, and we loved the idea that the fund will go on ‘forever’, even after we are gone.”
Nancy and her husband have also established the Bob and Nancy Griffin Donor Advised Fund, the Griffin Beverage Scholarship Fund, and the Esther and F.A. Diebold Memorial Endowment Fund in honor of Nancy’s grandparents, which supports the West Branch Girl Scouts.
And Nancy is thankful to others who have established funds at the Community Foundation because, as often is the case, what is close to our own heart is also important to others. Once a fund has been established at the Community Foundation, anyone can give to it at any time, and in any amount.
“These funds help all of us to support a cause without any one person needing to give a large amount,”
The Orioles Forever West Branch High School (WBHS) Alumni Scholarship Fund is one of which Nancy is particularly proud to be involved. WBHS was closed when Rose City and West Branch schools consolidated in the 1960s. She and other alumni wanted to commemorate their alma mater and support local students in the process. In 2006, Nancy and Ronald Schneider, a fellow alumnus, approached the WBHS Alumni Board with the idea of creating an endowed scholarship fund; but when the board was not in favor of pursuing the idea, Ronald and Nancy joined forces to make it happen on their own.
“We felt many of the WBHS alumni were in a position to give back to their ‘starter community’, and by the end of that year, by word of mouth, e-mail and mailing, about $10,000 was donated by many alumni, and they have continued to support the fund over the years,” says Nancy.
It took two years for the scholarship fund to generate enough for the newly-formed Orioles Forever Advisory Committee to award one $500 award. Today, that fund has grown to over $250,000 and has awarded nearly $46,000 in scholarships to 72 students from Ogemaw County.
While helping the next generation with their futures, Nancy also believes strongly in the importance of preserving the past. She and Bob were very involved in the Ogemaw County Historical Museum’s move to its current location, helping with renovations and fundraising. She says they also actively encouraged the board to use money from the sale of their former building to start an endowment fund for the Museum’s needs, and ensure that current and future generations have the opportunity to embrace local history.
“I think people need to know what earlier generations have done to make possible what is here today,” says Nancy. “Perhaps there were some mistakes made, (proving that we are all human), but most people were just trying to do their best to make conditions better for themselves, their families and their communities. Those things directly affected what is here and happening today, and what is happening today will affect future generations.”
The Ogemaw County Historical Museum board decided to start a fund in 2015. Through community donations and fundraising efforts, the fund has grown to over $80,000 in assets. Nancy has supported the fund through personal donations, and has voluntarily managed the organization’s Giving Tuesday Northeast Michigan campaign for the last three years, encouraging more community donations. Though the Griffins did not establish this fund, Nancy continues to be a champion for it because she believes in its importance.
Nancy is a fine example of a philanthropist who gives not only of resources, but of her time, her energy, and her talents. Her drive to make things happen for her community through the power of collective giving is
certainly leaving its mark.