The Grand Rapids Foundation, 209-C Waters Building, 161 Ottawa Avenue, NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2703; (616) 454-1751

The Grand Rapids Foundation
A Tradition of Giving

When her husband Melville died at age 42, Anna Bissell was left with four small children, an expanding young company, and an unshakable belief in the future. When she died in 1934, she left behind not only a flourishing family business, BISSELL INC., but also a legacy of caring for this community. Her generosity has carried on through each of the following generations of Bissells who continue to give back to their community through The Grand Rapids Foundation.

Melville and Anna Bissell were true entrepreneurs. In 1876, Melville invented the first carpet sweeper and when the couple traveled to Philadelphia to market his new invention, Anna sold her sample and took orders for 144 more. From that time on, Anna ran the sales and marketing end of the business.

The fledgling company grew fast, yet its early years were marked with serious challenges. In 1884 a fire completely destroyed their plant with losses of about $60,000 (about $6 million today). Instead of quitting, the couple gathered their resources and rebuilt the business. Then a few years later, Melville passed away, leaving Anna in charge. Her dedication to the family business as well as her business sense helped make BISSELL INC. what it has become today -- a multi-million-dollar company, known worldwide for its quality products and services.

The Bissell family is also known for their generous contributions to this community. In 1934, Anna Bissell established a $45,000 charitable trust with The Foundation. Her son, M.R. Bissell Jr., served 30 years as a trustee, the last 20 as Board Chair. Upon his death, The Foundation received an unrestricted gift from his estate. That tradition of giving as continued through the third (John & Claire Bissell) and Matthew & Vicki Bissell).

"Bissell has become a household name thanks to hard work, ingenuity, and perseverance -- an attitude passed down from one generation to the next," said John Bissell, Anna's grandson. "What has also stuck with our family is a deep concern for the welfare of our community. My grandmother recognized how important it was to give back some of what our family was so generously given. The rest of us have followed her lead in supporting the vision of The Foundation."

75 YEARS (1922-1997)

Help us prepare for the next 75 years of caring for community needs in the greater Grand Rapids area. Call 454-1751 for more information on ways you can support The Grand Rapids Foundation.

Funding for this postcard series was provided by Michigan National Bank and Old Kent Bank.

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