Holton family gives generous gift to Education Foundation
By Tom Noreen
For many years, Mike and Alice Holton were generous patrons of Cedar Springs. Their gifts to the city and the public schools were instrumental in improving the facilities and capabilities each had to offer. Many of their contributions were given anonymously. Their gifts included building the pedestrian bridge over Main Street; renovating Skinner Field with new bleachers, lights, fencing, and a composite running surface track; paving the new section of the Elmwood Cemetery; key sponsors of Boomer Field; Cedar Springs Public Library projects; and the band shell used in the High School auditorium. The Cedar Springs Public School Board named Holton Drive on the school campus in honor of their generosity to the school.
Mike first came to town as a kid when his father was assigned as pastor to the Cedar Springs Free Methodist Church (now The Springs). They then went to Big Rapids but his sister, Lois, stayed and later married Elwood Larson.
It was in Big Rapids, according to Lois, that Mike met Alice. Alice lived across the road from the parsonage. After a tour in a US Navy Construction Battalion (SeaBee), they married and moved to Cedar Springs.
Kathy (Holton) Raudenbush wrote, “They moved to Cedar in the late 40’s and started the bottled gas business. We think the reason for their choice of Cedar was that Dad had gone, briefly, to high school here, and his sister and her husband, Lois and Elwood Larson, were living here. Their storefront was on Main Street across from what was then Skinner Drugs. Mom kept the books while Dad was out delivering gas and making sales. The business moved out to its present location in the early 60s when it became Holton’s LP Gas. It is important to know, from our perspective, that Dad’s biggest priority was always the comfort and safety of his customers. There were many nights and weekends when he would be out delivering gas when someone ran out, or going on a service call when someone had a problem.”
Lois said the business was initially in the building where the Fast Tax Service is now and then they built another building just to the north now occupied by the Reflections by Design hair salon.
According to Kathy, Mike was active in a number of local civic organizations. Alice spent many happy years volunteering in Marge Clark’s kindergarten classroom. She noted, “Dad and Mom had a great respect for education and what it could do to increase a person’s chances of success in life, and that is why they were so interested in helping the school whenever they could.”
It was in this environment that Mike and Alice reared their children, Kathy, Karen, Kevin, and Kris. The legacy of supporting education continues. The Holton family, in honor of their parents, decided to donate the Holton home on Northland Drive to the Cedar Springs Education Foundation so that the proceeds would go to the schools.
Bill Tucker, past president of the Cedar Springs Education Foundation said, “I was contacted by Kevin Holton in late 2013. I actually met with the family in February 2014 to discuss the details of the transfer.” The deed was transferred, some needed repairs were done, and the house put up for sale. Once on the market, the house sold quickly and the Education Foundation received a net of $171, 554 after expenses.
Once sold, the Foundation decided to make an initial grant to the school of about $25,000 for a significant project to recognize this tremendous gift from the Holton family. The school was asked to propose a number of projects for the family to choose from. These included a covered playground pavilion for Cedar Trails, a computer-learning lab for Cedar View, and a new sound system for the High School auditorium. After reviewing the projects, the family turned it back over to the foundation to make the selection. Kathy said, “They as a group would be happy with any of the options and felt the foundation would be better able to determine what would be most beneficial to the school.”
The Foundation met at a special meeting on February 4 to make that decision. After much discussion, moderated by Foundation President Jeni McIntyre, the board chose the High School auditorium sound system, for a number of reasons. Sue Spahr, board member and Middle School principal, said that the sound system would have a greater impact on both students and the community. Board members Audrey Debri and Chad Wight noted that each proposal was excellent and should be considered again at a later date.
The Education Foundation and the Cedar Springs Schools greatly appreciate this gift and the Holton family’s legacy of giving.