Growing up in Holland, Mich., Mike Goorhouse ’08 never thought it would become his life’s work to strengthen and ensure the longtime vibrancy of his hometown.
While a freshman at Holland Christian High, Goorhouse was nominated for a seat on the youth advisory committee at the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland area (CFHZ). “I had no idea what a foundation was, but I was involved in everything and always said yes to invitations such as this,” Goorhouse said.
He discovered that “community” meant more than just his school as he met with students from other area high schools. He began to look at similarities and common goals.
He became the advisory board’s chair during his senior year of high school and was a liaison to the foundation’s board of trustees, partnering him with trustee Ken Filippini, now president of The Worden Company, a specialty furniture manufacturer.
“Ken mentored me,” said Goorhouse. “I went on development calls and learned a ton from him.”
Goorhouse represented CFHZ at a statewide conference and caught the attention of the chief executive of the Council of Michigan Foundation (CMF).
After beginning his Calvin College academic career as a math/Spanish secondary education major, he worked at CMF through the summer, helping plan CMF’s youth philanthropy conference, and was offered a job there before he was to start his sophomore year at Calvin.
“We worked out a plan for me to still take classes and yet put in a lot of hours with CMF,” said Goorhouse. “It was a little crazy. I drove all over the state for meetings and training sessions. I was too young to rent a car or book a hotel room for myself, so I had to carry a special waiver from CMF. They really took a big chance on me.”
There were many humorous moments along the way.
“I would be conducting foundation conference calls from my dorm room,” he said, “all the while hoping my suitemates’ music wasn’t too loud.”
Goorhouse managed to stay involved at Calvin as an activities coordinator for his residence hall and as a member of the tennis team. He also managed to do student teaching in a public high school math classroom during his senior year and was named the math department’s education student of the year.
He worked for CMF for six years and could have stayed on, but his hometown came calling.
“I had received a Young Philanthropist Award from the CFHZ a while back, and apparently some foundation members remembered my speech. The idea of working directly for the benefit of my home community was exciting to me,” he said.
Goorhouse was offered the position of vice president for donor development, which he began early in 2012. Just two years later, after the retirement of the president/chief executive officer, he was invited to take the reins of the foundation in that same position.
“While it might seem unusual for someone my age to be running a foundation, I began engagement in philanthropic leadership when I was in high school. I already have 13 years of experience in this kind of work,” Goorhouse said.
He credits his Calvin years as assisting in his development as a leader.
“Calvin was the right place for me,” he said. “I could be involved in so many things—far more than at other schools I might have attended. I got to spend time with the president of the college talking about fund raising. There was the tennis team, the scholars program, the residence halls. At Calvin, you have the opportunity to be deeply involved.”
Goorhouse sees the role of philanthropy as a powerful tool to maintain the stability and creativity of communities.
“From a faith perspective, we call this stewardship,” he said. “Everyone can give. It is a learned habit. And while there’s no shortage of need or opportunity, there’s also no limit to the joy giving can provide.”