In a somewhat whimsical way, one special couple in our midst gives back to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and its Foundation in what you might describe as “The Key of Julien.”
In any respect, Mike and Sarah Julien both love to call Meijer Gardens their home away from home, a place where, in Mike’s words, “anyone who visits is going to find something special.”
Adds Sarah, “We’re just so impressed at how this facility is for all ages, and it’s always changing and improving, including construction of a new entrance to accommodate more people. They’re always thinking ahead.”
To demonstrate their love of Meijer Gardens, the Juliens have invested significant time and treasure into the Foundation to help create a legacy that is destined to live on for the sake of current and future generations.
Mike got his first taste of the Meijer culture in 1975 while working as a certified public accountant with a firm that represented Meijer, Inc. In 1995, he joined Meijer as Vice President of Taxes and stayed until 2012, staying busy with projects that included the family’s foundation and its various philanthropic interests. He’s served the Meijer Gardens Foundation since 1996, first as financial advisor, then as Treasurer to the Board since 2010.
Sarah was a stay-at-home mom for most of the time their three daughters attended Forest Hills schools, but she found time to serve the district, as well as the North Country National Scenic Trail and other non-profits. She also served as a significant sounding board for Mike during his 16-year tenure as Cascade Township Supervisor. “It was a great way to give back to the local community,” he says of their involvement.
Mike and Sarah have been donors to the Foundation since 1997. In 2011, they made an estate gift pledge to the Foundation, which they fulfilled in 2016. That gift qualified them to become members of the Bonsai Society.
They like to emphasize that the Foundation allows an opportunity for everyone to create a legacy. “There are ways to become involved at all levels,” says Sarah. “You can give ten dollars or a hundred thousand dollars, anything that anyone gives is always appreciated and helps support Meijer Gardens.”
Mike especially enjoys the opportunity to play rhythm guitar and back-up vocals as part of “Franklin Park”, a band he and five 1969 classmates at Holland High School formed to pay homage to 60s rock classics. They performed this past August at Meijer Gardens, and were delighted to be informed that the Gardens actually set records for ticket and concession sales.
Mike’s philosophy of giving back is tied to a belief that “each generation has a responsibility to the next generation to leave its charitable organizations in good shape. That includes good governance, good management and a good, sound financial footing.”
He views an endowment fund – the cornerstone of the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation – as integral to the survival of Meijer Gardens.
“I’ve worked for 23 years to help the Foundation achieve its goals,” he says, “to make sure that as the Gardens grows, its financial backbone grows as well.”