On the surface, it might not appear there’s much in common between Rotary Clubs and Meijer Gardens and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation.
But if you were to ask George Trowbridge – who will be celebrating 50 years as a Rotarian and is a generous donor to the Foundation alongside wife Kerstin – all you have to do is reflect on Rotary’s “four-way test” to send a valid connection.
The last two of those four-way test questions ask whether what you’re involved in will “build goodwill and better friendships,” and whether it will “be beneficial to all concerned.”
Meijer Gardens certainly qualifies on both counts, and for the Trowbridges, Meijer Gardens and the Foundation are ideal ways to embrace a larger community and contribute to the culture of West Michigan.
Anytime they host visitors to their home, for instance, they make sure to acquaint them with Meijer Gardens. “It’s the first place we bring them,” says Kerstin. “And they’re just blown away. They can’t believe and don’t expect that something like this is in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
After George graduated from the University of Michigan and served two years in the U.S. Army, he earned a scholarship to attend the University of Stockholm in Sweden where he met and married Kerstin. After living in her homeland three years, they settled in Grand Rapids in 1967 and have two grown children – Susanne and Jon.
George retired at the relatively young age of 56 and smiles to recount that “I’ve never been bored for even one minute.” The couple splits their time between a home here, a place in Florida and home in Sweden, where they annually celebrate both their anniversary and George’s birthday.
The Trowbridges have been members of Meijer Gardens since the spring of 1996. They joined the Foundation as charter members of its Perennial Society in 2007. “My father had a lot of sayings,” relates George, “and among them was ‘There’s no reason you should be the richest person in the graveyard.’ So we both feel strongly that if you’re able to make a contribution to a deserving non-profit like Meijer Gardens, then why not sooner rather than later?” “It’s such a joyful place,” says Kerstin. “Sometimes we come here and just walk the trails. It’s so peaceful and beautiful.”
Their special relationship with the Foundation is based on the realization that “it’s going to be here long after a lot of us are gone,” says George. “Keeping the Gardens sustainable is the Foundation’s job. You know that virtually 100 percent is going to the Gardens. Minimal administrative costs, and no junkets.”
“You can draw comfort from knowing exactly where your money is going.”