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Published: 7/11/2003

Ottawa Co. developers build help for charity

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Hoping to increase donations from seasonal residents in Ottawa County, the United Way's local director asked three local businessmen how to reach those people.

The trio, who are developing a subdivision in Catawba Island Township, came up with a novel idea - and agreed to be the first donors.

Bob Snyder, Pete Weimer, and Bill Van Der Giessen plan to donate $300 for each of the 185 lots sold in the Catawba Bay development along Muggy Road. In addition, the subdivision's bylaws will call for each property owner to contribute $30 a year to the United Way's Ottawa County office as part of their association dues.

“What the United Way needs, what a lot of these philanthropic institutions need, is a little marketing, a little salesmanship,” Mr. Van Der Giessen said.

The developers and agency officials plan to designate Catawba Bay as the first United Way Caring, Giving Community during a ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday in the subdivision.

Chris Galvin, Ottawa County director for the United Way of Greater Toledo, called the developers' idea “a stroke of genius.”

“We thought they'd tell us how they did their outreach to that community,” she said. “And to our surprise, they said, `This is what we will do.' I never would have thought of it in a million years.”

The sale of lots will net as much as $55,500 for the United Way, while the association surcharge should generate more than $5,000 a year.

Mr. Van Der Giessen said he and his partners are pleased to contribute to the United Way, but their real goal is to establish a model for other developers and homeowners' associations to follow.

“If it's just our development of 185 homes, that's great for the United Way,” he said. “But the real idea is for others to seize on this and realize the income potential that's out there.”

So far, the developers have buyers for about half the lots in the subdivision's first phase, which includes 83 lots, Mr. Van Der Giessen said. He estimated it would take about five years to fully develop the subdivision.

Lots start at $48,900. A two-story, three-bedroom home with about 2,500 square feet can be built for just over $285,000, according to the development's Web site.

Mr. Van Der Giesen said he expects a mix of permanent residents, vacation-home owners from nearby Ohio cities, and empty-nesters who want to spend summers near Lake Erie.

Ms. Galvin said the United Way has long struggled to reach seasonal residents in Ottawa County. The Caring, Giving Community Program will help those people feel like part of the community and help the United Way provide needed services, she said.

“There are people who serve these seasonal residents who need the Red Cross to be there if there's a fire at their house in February, who need child care for their children after school,” Ms. Galvin said. “Most people, if you ask them, will give. We just needed a different way of asking people, and meeting them.”



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