Piper, an active member of the Flint community, passed away in 2020, leaving a bequest to the Flint Kiwanis Club. Piper was the second woman initiated into the Flint Kiwanis Club and a founding member of the Flint Music in the Parks committee.

“The Music in the Parks location moved around Genesee County and it was Jo’s role to find sponsors for it. It was a mission she was passionate about and I think she continued in that role even after retiring from the city,” says Piper’s brother, John Hartranft.

Her career path led her from the YMCA to director of the mayor’s office on aging and handicapped with the City of Flint. Her last responsibility for the Flint Kiwanis Club was coordinating the monthly Kiwanis Student Athlete of the Month Award for Genesee County high school students.

“She loved serving the kids in Flint and wanted to make sure they had what other kids had,” says Patti Higgins, FIM trustee and Flint Kiwanis Club board member.

The Flint Kiwanis Club makes donations to organizations benefiting children every year, living up to the Kiwanis mission of “serving the children of the world.” This is why Higgins knew Piper’s gift would be a good fit for FSPA.

“When she passed away a few years ago and left this beautiful gift for Kiwanis to give away in her memory, immediately I thought of FSPA and its scholarships. I worked with a small group of young Kiwanians, and we agreed that giving it to FSPA for scholarships would be a great way to honor her,” says Higgins.

Piper’s bequest to the Flint Kiwanis Club will be gifted to three organizations over three years. Last year, the first gift was given to Communities First Inc. in the form of the Joanne Piper Learning Lab. The second gift is to FSPA in scholarships. The third donation will be made next year to another organization.

“We wanted her gift to make a real impact on kids and families in Flint,” says Flint Kiwanis Club President Kimberly Mills Shelby. “FSPA has always been one of the best programs for kids. There are many ways of doing it but giving it as scholarships so kids who can’t afford it can get dance, theatre and music lessons… I don’t think there’s anything better than that.”

The Seeing Stars! Tuition Assistance Program, begun in 1997, is designed to assist students without adequate financial resources to study at FSPA. It is need-based and provides every qualified student who applies with assistance. Awards range from 20-90 percent of the tuition cost for two classes per semester.

Seeing Stars! has received millions of dollars in donations over the past 26 years, mostly from individual donors.

“We’re very thankful to the Kiwanis Club for this generous gift that will provide talented young musicians, dancers and actors the opportunity to reach their goals. I believe this would’ve made Joanne very happy,” says FIM Vice President of Performing Arts Instruction and FSPA Director Davin Pierson Torre.

FIM hosted a private reception on Oct. 23 to honor the Flint Kiwanis Club and the gift in Joanne Piper’s memory. Mills Shelby gifted the check to Pierson Torre.

“We celebrated, toasted and thanked Joanne Piper at the reception for gifting this money so FSPA students are able to get scholarships,” says Mills Shelby.

Piper’s dedication to the Flint community lives on in her gifts, and in the children they continue to impact.

“It’s important for those of us at FSPA to understand the work of the Flint Kiwanis Club, and it’s important for Kiwanis members to know how this gift will impact so many children into the future,” says Pierson Torre.