Zeeland’s Howard Miller Library opened its doors in 1995 thanks to the efforts of a few passionate community members. With the sustainability created by an Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation in 1998, the library is able to expand its services to the community and will be around for generations to come.
The city’s first library was in the Johny Kole Ford Building, an old garage the city purchased when Frank Hoogland was mayor. Decades later, Hoogland’s son, Les, would become the longest serving mayor of Zeeland, playing an integral role in the building of a beloved library and community center.
Shortly after being elected mayor, Les Hoogland met his friend Randy Dekker for lunch. Dekker — who Hoogland calls “Mr. Zeeland” — suggested the community would greatly benefit from a new library, and Hoogland agreed. “That’s where it all started,” Hoogland recalled. “It was all Dek’s idea.”
Dekker and Hoogland took their idea and added a couple more to their lunch meetings: Phil Miller and Jack Miller. The brothers quickly got onboard with this new initiative and offered a generous contribution of $1.25 million on behalf of the Howard Miller Clock Company, but they had three requests: that the people of the city would be allowed to vote on it, Hoogland would raise the additional funds needed, and it would be named the Howard Miller Library.
In less than a year, the three requests were fulfilled. Hoogland raised an additional $1.1 million, the city council unanimously voted in support of the new library, and the name was settled.
Once the funds for the building of the library were secured, Phil and Jack Miller knew the fundraising wasn’t over. “Jack called me and said we had to have an Endowment Fund for this thing,” Hoogland said. “He said that for every $2 I collected, they would give me $1, up to $350,000.
In 1998, the Howard Miller Library Endowment Fund was established at the Community Foundation. “People knew the value of an Endowment Fund,” Hoogland said. “We knew the Community Foundation was the best place to keep it, and it’s been a real success.”
The Endowment Fund continues to support the library on an annual basis providing dependable revenue for operations and special project. Most recently, in 2016 the fund was used to expand the children’s area where daily you can find Zeeland families gathered for story time and activities.
“There’s no greater feeling than seeing kids walk out of the library with a handful of books,” Hoogland said.
The building also houses the Community Center. “The Howard Miller Community Center was established to meet the varied needs of the Zeeland area and beyond,” said Heather Wood-Gramza, Director of the Howard Miller Library and Community Center. “It provides a vital space for events such as birthday parties, corporate trainings, fundraisers, retirement parties and so much more.
In addition to being available to the wider public, the Howard Miller Library uses the space to provide programming for people of all ages. From family movie nights to creative programs for adults, there is always something interesting happening”
Originally featured in the Community Foundation’s 2018 Annual Report. While this was written by CFHZ’s Communications Associate Lina Pierson in 2019, we believe that stories of generosity are timeless and always relevant.
Nonprofit endowment funds are endowments that provide permanent income streams to support nonprofits’ programs and operations. The Community Foundation holds and invests the endowed assets, providing responsible and professional fund management. Investment earnings are granted back to the agencies annually to support their mission.