Ward and Eis Gallery strengthens the community by giving back

Ward and Eis Gallery 2023 FINAL
Ward and Eis Gallery in Petoskey continued a tradition of supporting local nonprofit organizations with donations totaling $28,000. Pictured are (from left) Carrie Klingelsmith, The Manna Food Project; Gail Walker, The Nehemiah Project; Jama Moffett, The Petoskey Club; Gail Kloss, Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan; Denneen Smith, Friendship Centers of Emmet County; Jennifer Eis and Aanii, Ward and Eis Gallery; and Carol Francis, Health Department of Northwest Michigan.

Ward and Eis Gallery owner Jennifer Eis invited several local nonprofits to her store in downtown Petoskey to present them with philanthropic donations totaling $28,000 to support their organizations.

This annual tradition was conceived by Don Ward and Jennifer Eis as they were getting started in business and spans 39 consecutive years. Their first donation was $698 to Friendship Centers and hospice. This year’s donations bring their grand total of giving back to the community to $567,000.

Once Ward and Eis made the commitment to give back, there was no turning back. They gave in good years and lean years, the year Ward walked on from this life and during the pandemic when the store was closed for months. Additionally, they found ways to increase their giving even when it seemed it could not be done.

Eis recalled that as they increased their giving to what seemed to be an unsustainable level, her life and business partner Don Ward said, “We’ll never know unless we try.” They relied on this philosophy and focused on building relationships with their customers, staff and craftspeople as a guiding principal that continues to work for the business today.

“In my world, business exists primarily to create relationships,” Eis said. She explained that money is energy and intended to flow, which is why she prefers to use the word currency to remain mindful of its fluid nature and ability to nourish and shape the surrounding environment.

Although Ward passed on several years ago, Eis often reflects on his words and life philosophy. She and Ward both embraced a business philosophy of valuing people and strengthening the community.

Eis recollected that Ward used to say that if business owners are focused only on the bottom line, they are looking too low. Instead, he suggested looking up and focusing on the faces that are in front of you.

Recently, on a sunny February afternoon, Eis focused on the faces of those gathered at her gallery. She recognized their extraordinary work, compassionate care and the real difference they are making in the lives of people in this community. She also recognized the vital dedication of the gallery staff in supporting the giving back philosophy.

This year, Ward and Eis Gallery’s community contributions represented 3% of all annual sales, 20% of Thanksgiving and Christmas benefits and 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the Magpie Papers, co-authored by Ward and Eis.

Donations were shared with the following organizations: Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan (WRCNM), $5,500; The Manna Food Project, $4,500; Friendship Centers of Emmet County, $4,500; The Nehemiah Project, $4,500; Petoskey Club, $4,500; and the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, $4,500.

WRCNM Executive Director, Gail Kloss said she values the consistent and generous support from Ward and Eis Gallery, “It’s truly remarkable what one small business can do to give back and help create safe and thriving communities.”

Reflecting on the gallery’s 39 years of giving that total $567,000, Eis said, “Sometimes if you just stay in one place and keep doing what you do, you can make a really big difference.”

Ward and Eis Gallery is at 315 East Lake Street in Petoskey and can be reached at (231) 347-2750.