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Foundation Watch: The Peter & Emajean Cook Foundation

September 10, 2019

Peter Cook is the former Chairman of Mazda Great Lakes, where he made millions off the labor of others and the sale of cars. Cook has funded numerous groups on the religious right, such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Michigan Family Forum, the Mackinac Center, the Acton Institute, Teach Michigan and Gospel Films in Muskegon. Like Richard DeVos, Cook also served as a member on the board of the Council for National Policy. Cook was a major funder, along with Richard DeVos, for the new GVSU health sciences building on Michigan St. in Grand Rapids. During the fund raising efforts in 1995 for the proposed health sciences building, Cook and DeVos threatened to withdraw funding for the building if the university passed domestic partner benefits for faculty and staff. Money won out and domestic partner benefits were denied until 13 years later in 2008, as is documented in the film, A People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids

In addition, Peter Cook was a major contributor to the Republican Party for years, funding that has supported candidates and policies that have benefited the wealthiest people at the expense of the working class and communities of color.

We looked at the 990 documents for the Peter & Emajean Cook Foundation between 2014 and 2017. What follows are the larger contributions from those four years.

Hope College $1,750,000

The Potter’s House School $550,000

Davenport College $466,000

GVSU Foundation $400,000

Grandville Academy of the Arts $400,000

Western Theological Seminary $350,000

YMCA $327,000

Van Andel Institute $325,000

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital $250,000

Reformed Church in America $250,000

Meijer Gardens $200,000

Habitat for Humanity $200,000

Ada Christian School Education Foundation $150,000

Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids $150,000

Camp Geneva $150,000

Children’s Assessment Center $150,000

Safe Haven Ministries $150,000

ArtPrize $120,000

Grand Rapids Catholic Central $100,000

Next Step of West Michigan $100,000

Freedom Alliance $80,000

Camp Rogers $50,000

Calvin Theological Seminary $50,000

As you can see, the bulk of funding has gone to Christian entities, particularly Christian educational entities like Hope College and The Potter’s House. There is also funding to entities that were started by families who make up the Grand Rapids Power Structure, like Meijer Gardens, the Van Andel Institute and ArtPrize.

Then there is more targeted funding, particularly in the Grandville Avenue/Roosevelt Park area, such as the Grandville Academy of the Arts, Habitat for Humanity (specifically for new housing in the Grandville Avenue corridor) and the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association (not listed here, but still receiving a substantial amount).

Part of the slight shift in funding in recent years has been after Peter Cook died in 2010. While there is still significant funding from the foundation that goes to conservative Christian entities, the groups in the Roosevelt Park area represent somewhat of a move to support non-profits that are more rooted in that neighborhood.

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