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By Dick Posthumus and Lisa Lyons

Pam Posthumus Signature Auction Event

 

A legacy of service, that continues to be needed

May 11, 2018

As the wife of a former Michigan Senate majority leader and lieutenant governor, it would have been easy for Pam Posthumus to get lost in the background of a busy political life. She, however, had different plans. Instead, she became an unwavering, unyielding and uncompromising service provider as a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable and most valuable in our state.

Children — both in her own home as well as those across the state — became a singular mission for Posthumus. As the former chairwoman of the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund, Posthumus made her life’s goal prioritizing, protecting and promoting the safety and well-being of children who were susceptible to be the victims of abuse and neglect.

That legacy of Posthumus, who lost a yearlong battle with cancer in 2010 at age 59, is carried on each year as the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund (CTF) hosts the annual Pam Posthumus Signature Auction Event. Now in its 16th year, the auction has grown into the largest fundraiser for the nonprofit, generating more than $6 million during its run to help CTF continue the programs and services it provides across the state to benefit children suffering abuse and neglect. This year’s event is set for May 16th at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Born in the Grand Rapids area, Posthumus met her future husband in high school. Their first date was a Christmas dance in 1966. She married Dick Posthumus in 1972 and, shortly after that, Pam Posthumus began working in politics as a legislative aide to state Rep. John A. “Jack” Welborn from Kalamazoo. She continued working for Welborn when he was elected to the state Senate; however, when her husband was elected to the state Senate in 1982, Posthumus stepped away from her own political role to focus on raising her three daughters. Another addition, this time a son, came a year later.

“She was Supermom. She was Grammy. She made those roles — wife, mother, grandmother — her top priority,” daughter Lisa Posthumus Lyons said in 2016. “Whether sports, 4-H, Future Farmers of America or anything else, our activities big and small always won out for my mom’s attention. She always was available not only for my brother, sisters and me, but our extended family and our friends relied on Mom, too. And yet, she still managed to be everywhere all the time, supporting my dad and giving back to the community. Like many moms, she was seemingly omnipresent — and also omniscient, especially when she caught us doing something wrong!”

While her husband climbed the ladder of the state’s Republican Party — eventually being tapped as former Gov. John Engler’s lieutenant — Posthumus was carving out a notable name for herself in the arena of child advocacy.

“Children motivated my mom in public and private life,” said Lyons, who apparently gleaned a commitment to service from both her parents by serving three terms in the state House representing the 86th District and who is currently the Clerk/Register of Deeds for Kent County. “She taught me that kids are God’s gift to each family and each community and that few things were more important than standing up for Michigan’s youngest, most vulnerable residents. My mom firmly believed that every child deserves the opportunity to be safe, to learn and to access resources that can help them succeed. Most importantly, Mom said every child deserves to be loved.”

With former Michigan House Speaker Curtis Hertel Sr. and Co-Speaker Paul Hillegonds, Posthumus’ husband helped pass the legislation that created the Children’s Trust Fund. CTF was established by Public Act 250 of 1982 as Michigan’s only statewide nonprofit organization solely dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Since 1982, CTF has raised more than $60 million in charitable donations to support prevention programs and services in communities across the state, impacting more than 6 million children and families through community-based grants.

CTF funds more than 73 local child abuse and neglect prevention councils that serve all 83 Michigan counties. In addition, CTF funding is directed to 37 community-based nonprofits, direct-service programs across the state such as childhood development programs, respite care, home-visitation programs and parent education. The organization also provides training, technical assistance and support to its statewide prevention network as well as promotes evidence-based services to children and families.

In 1997, Posthumus was appointed to a seat on the CTF Board of Directors, and she was named as the board chairwoman in 2002.

“The Children’s Trust Fund board tied together, I thought, not only her love of kids and work she had done in her local community, but it gave her an opportunity on a statewide stage to make a difference — and she did,” Engler said in a YouTube video posted by CTF.

CTF doesn’t receive a state appropriation. Instead, it is funded by interest income from a restricted trust fund, direct donations, grants, specialty license plate sales, income tax checkoffs and fundraisers. Yet the leadership and advocacy efforts of Posthumus helped the trust fund grow from $13 million to $20 million.

Posthumus was instrumental in launching the first Cherish the Children Signature Auction for CTF. Now known as the Pam Posthumus Signature Auction Event, the fundraiser has become a much-anticipated annual social and networking gathering as well as a key monetary resource to keep the work and the goals of CTF steadily moving forward. 

All proceeds from the auction go directly to CTF programs and services like respite care, home visitations, child development support and other targeted services allowing local partners around the state to continue to provide education and other prevention programs.

In 2012, 33,565 children in Michigan were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect, according to CTF. By supporting the annual auction, residents will be helping to prevent child maltreatment from ever happening in the first place.

“Our children are our greatest investment, and this event showcases your commitment to protecting Michigan’s youngest citizens,” CTF states on its website for the auction.

The evening of the auction will feature music, cocktails, hors-d’oeuvres, and live and silent auctions. The silent auction opens to online bidding Wednesday, May 9. Among some of the highlights of this year’s live auction are an Argentina dove-hunting trip; a Detroit Lions suite package; a Detroit Red Wings suite package; a Detroit Tigers suite package; an Elton John concert in Dublin, Ireland; a trip to Barcelona, Spain; a vacation to a luxury oceanfront resort in Maui; a journey to the Great American West in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; a Michigan State University football suite package; and a vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

In addition to an evening of bidding, the auction also serves as the stage to announce the honoree of the annual Children’s Advocate Award. The 2018 recipient will be Andrea Fischer Newman, the former senior vice president of governmental affairs for Delta Air Lines, which has been a longstanding partner with the auction.

While the Pam Posthumus Signature Auction Event is an evening of fun and festivity to bolster the ongoing efforts of CTF, it’s also a moment to pay tribute to its namesake: A woman who identified the challenges children may face in their home environments, and who was fierce and fearless in her efforts to make things better for them and for all of Michigan.

“Optimal child development is at the core of community and economic development,” CTF states on its website. “Effective child development efforts lay a strong foundation for a child’s successful growth and development. When we don’t make the healthy growth and development of our children a top priority, we jeopardize our future.”

Individual tickets for the Pam Posthumous Signature Auction Event are $150 and can be purchased online at 501auctions.com/ctfsignature. For more information, contact CTF Fund Development Manager Tricia Headley at 517-241-7226 or at headleyp@michigan.gov.

For more information about the mission and services provided by the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund, visit www.michigan.gov/ctf.

May 10, 2018 · Filed under Lisa Posthumus Lyons

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