February 21, 2014

Building Saginaw while preserving its history

Thomas Mudd, local historian and founder of the Saginaw Valley Historic Preservation Society, often works to preserve the past. But, he’s also working to build a better Saginaw for future generations through the four funds he has started at the Saginaw Community Foundation.


“I’m a great believer in all the different things the Saginaw Community Foundation can do to help build our community,” he says. “You can assist the growth and success of the community through the foundation.”


Mudd started his first fund, the Saginaw Hall of Fame Bean Bunny Fund, when he was working to preserve the iconic neon bunny sign atop the Michigan Bean elevator. The sign, located in downtown Saginaw on Niagara Street, is the largest figural neon sign in the nation and a nostalgic symbol of Saginaw’s agricultural industry.


To help raise money to save and relight the landmark sign, the Saginaw Hall of Fame became the nonprofit sponsor and started selling “Bean Bunnies,” small bean-stuffed bunnies similar to the popular Beanie Babies.


“It turned out to be a very successful operation,” Mudd says. “We were selling thousands and thousands of them at $6 a piece. I said, ‘What’s the best place for me to put these funds so we can maintain this sign and other signs for a long time?’ And that’s when I started the Saginaw Hall of Fame Bunny Fund. I had learned that the Saginaw Community Foundation was there to help with projects like that.”


The Saginaw Hall of Fame Bean Bunny Fund also helps other sign projects for the Old Saginaw City Historic Sign Park. Mudd wants to save old neon signs that are typically thrown away.


“By saving the signs, you’re saving all those memories of Saginaw businesses,” he says.  


He also started the Mudd Family Historical Preservation Fund, as well as two other funds in memory of his parents.


“My dad was a long-term member of the Saginaw YMCA,” Mudd says. “I was a member of the YMCA as a little kid in the late 1940s. I just think the YMCA is a wonderful place. Because of our association with the YMCA, I wanted to have a fund in memory of my dad.”


The Dr. Richard D. Mudd YMCA Youth Fund will help support youth programs at the Saginaw YMCA.


“I’m a great believer in youth activities and we need so much more of that now,” he says. “There are too many kids with nothing to do.”


Mudd started the Rose M. Mudd Farmers’ Market Fund to memorialize his mother, as well as her cooking, canning and association with the Downtown Saginaw Farmers’ Market.


“I’m a great believer in the Downtown Saginaw Farmers’ Market,” he says. “I think they do an awful lot for the city.”


He believes that the Downtown Saginaw Farmers’ Market can provide a big boost for downtown Saginaw and the Washington Avenue corridor.


Mudd chose to start his funds at the Saginaw Community Foundation because of the organization’s extensive reach. 


“I think the Saginaw Community Foundation is important because they’re looking at the whole wide community and all the community’s needs,” he says. “They’re more broadly based than many of the other foundations and I think that bodes well for the future.”


Mudd says he’s always looking around for possibilities for new funds.


“In a sense, you’re not only starting a fund,” he says. “You’re honoring something.”


Mudd recommends starting funds based on shortcomings noticed in the community.


“I think people need to search for needs,” he says. “What kind of needs do we have in our community? If you see a need, go to the Saginaw Community Foundation and see if you can help satisfy that need by establishing a fund. Knowing the track record of the foundation, what they’ve done and how successful they’ve been in helping our community, it’s pure and simple.”


The most important thing, Mudd says, is to help build the foundation’s funds so it can give even more help to those in the community.


“That’s what I hope to do in the future and as I’ve done in the past: to continue to help grow the Saginaw Community Foundation so they can help in many endeavors and many needs in the community,” he says.


To learn more about starting a fund or contributing to an existing fund, visit Donor Resources page or contact Brian Jackson at (989) 755-0545 or brian@saginawfoundation.org.