Bill and Patty Zimmerman: Good Work Is Their Mission

Bill and Patty ZimmermanWhen Bill and Patty Zimmerman moved to Peaks Island in 1999, they carried more than their love of Maine and the water. They bore a driving belief in communities helping themselves.

Although the couple met in Maine -- at the summit of Mount Katahdin -- they began their lives together in Pennsylvania. Each of them knew the importance of giving back. Patty came from a family involved in community activities in western Massachusetts. Bill’s family included volunteers active in local civic organizations, schools, and hospitals. Bill himself helped revive the York County Community Foundation, which grew from $400,000 in assets to $5 million in less than three years, and to $80 million in 15.

After living in Pennsylvania for 25 years, the Zimmermans decided to return to Maine, settling into the close-knit Peaks Island community. Bill’s prior community foundation experience led him to look into launching a similar organization in his new home. In the weekly Island Times, he wrote: “The purpose of the Peaks Island Fund is ... to give all Peaks Island lovers an opportunity to establish a permanent fund to support the community beyond our time here. That is what endowment really means to Peaks, a lasting perpetual source of funds from folks who have enjoyed this wonderful place for many different reasons.”

In pursuing this idea, the Zimmermans came to the conclusion that it was too expensive to set up a private foundation on a local level. “The beauty of the Maine Community Foundation,” Bill notes, “is that it provides great administrative support, along with investment management. The Peaks Island Fund, which is tiny in relation to the foundation, benefits from some of the best minds in the state.” The partnership has allowed the Peaks Island Fund’s advisors, all islanders, to concentrate on their essential mission: encouraging donations and distributing grants.

The Peaks Island Fund annual meeting is open to the public. Says Patty, “When the advisors award grants, for after-school and summer programs, a garden for senior citizens, or a solar trash compactor to reduce island waste, the whole community is there. It’s gotten to be a wonderful event.”

The Zimmermans also have a donor-advised fund at the community foundation through which they contribute to organizations they believe offer the greatest support to the community. That fund focuses on Peaks Island, Casco Bay, Portland, and some statewide initiatives, in that order.

Ultimately, Bill and Patty Zimmerman believe in giving back to the community as a means of sustaining and promoting opportunities for all. As they wrote in a note to the community foundation, “Ordinary citizens who embrace well-reasoned change accomplish the most extraordinary good works.” They speak from experience: good work is their mission.