Longtime community volunteer takes over leadership of Lee Foundation
Published 8:00 am Wednesday, July 8, 2015
When it comes to supporting the institutions that make Dowagiac standout from other southwest Michigan communities, there are few people as active as Tom Carlson.
A lifelong resident of Dowagiac, Carlson is truly a man of many hats: in addition to his 40-year career with Hannapel Home Center, he is the chair of the Dowagiac Union Schools Foundation, a former member of the Dowagiac Athletic Booster Club, and, in recent years, the treasurer of the Lee Memorial Foundation board.
“My life has been encompassed by these organizations,” Carlson said. “I walk up to people and they start to walk the other way, thinking I’m going to ask them for a donation.”
The Dowagiac resident has recently added to his extensive list of responsibilities.
Late last month, Carlson took over as chair of the Lee Memorial Foundation, as longtime board leader Karen Judd elected to step down from the position during their June 23 meeting. A member of the foundation board for nearly 10 years, Carlson was approached by Judd and other members to succeed her as leader, he said.
“I highly admired Karen’s work,” Carlson said. “She was extremely good in the position. Her shoes will be extremely hard to fill.”
A native of Dowagiac and graduate of Decatur High School, Carlson has been a resident of the Indian Lake area for decades, purchasing a home out there when he was 21 years old. He went to work out for Hannapel Home Center the week after he graduated high school, and has worked his way up over the years to become vice president of the company, he said.
“I’ve worked there almost my entire life,” he said. “I started sweeping the warehouse as a summer job and the rest is history.”
Carlson has been volunteering for his community for nearly as long. He has been a member of the Dowagiac Union Schools Foundation, which provides funding for various projects and activities for local students and classrooms, for over 20 years, he said.
Around eight years ago, Carlson became a member of the Lee Memorial Foundation Board, which raises money for new equipment and renovations for the city’s Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital. As a trustee, treasurer and now chair of the foundation board, Carlson has extended the passion he for improving the quality of the local school district to making the local hospital as great as it can be.
“It’s great to have a place where people can go and get taken care of, instead of having to drive miles out of town,” Carlson said. “A lot of communities don’t have a place like that.”
The board is currently preparing for its pair of major fundraisers: the foundation’s annual golf outing, which takes place on Friday at Spruce Ridge Golf Course, and its beer and wine tasting event, which takes place outside Indian Lake on Aug. 1. It’s also in the midst of wrapping up its $1 million capital campaign to raise funds for the hospital’s entrance and registration area, as well as for new medical beds and state-of-the-art surgical instruments.
With the support of the board and staff of the foundation, Carlson is looking to continue to keep the momentum the organization generated moving forward.
“The hospital still has some definite needs,” Carlson said. “We want to continue to the fulfill them.”