Community honors Cotton family

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 2, 2014

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Several hundred local residents and community leaders gathered June 26 at the private Grosse Pointe Club to honor a Grosse Pointe family whose philanthropy and support of the area has made a visible positive difference.

The Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation — the nonprofit arm of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce — saluted the Cotton family during Lobster on the Lake, a fundraiser that was also the launching pad for the GPCC’s new I “heart” GP campaign.

Kathleen Stiso Mullins, president of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House and chair of the GPCF Board, said the Cottons have been named recipients of the first I “heart” GP Foundation Award.

“They’re an inspiration,” Mullins said. “They’re a motivation to all of us that you can make a positive difference in your community. And what better way to (honor them) than to be at this beautiful facility?” she continued, referring to the scenic lakefront Grosse Pointe Club.

The Cotton family — parents David Cotton and his wife, Shery, and their adult sons and daughters-in-law, Jon and Lindsay Cotton, Sean and Nancy Cotton, and Michael and Lisa Cotton — have been instrumental in the revitalization of Grosse Pointe Park’s business district, The Park, along Kercheval Avenue, purchasing multiple properties and bringing in new businesses such as Red Crown and Atwater in the Park.

In July 2011, Jon and Sean Cotton formally launched the Grosse Pointe Housing Foundation, a nonprofit that offers grants to cover a portion of the rental costs for qualifying college and graduate students, a program that has introduced hundreds of future young professionals to the community.

Michael Cotton, who lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, said the impetus for his family’s efforts was the recession, which hit housing and the business district in the Park especially hard.

“This is our community and we love it, and we wanted to do something to stabilize it,” he said. “We wanted to help see the community thrive again.”

Michael Cotton said they wanted to show young people that the Park was a great place to live and socialize.

His father said that landlords participating in the Grosse Pointe Housing Foundation program have spent $2.8 million since its inception renovating and improving their properties, because the landlords “have to meet our standards” to participate. David Cotton said Jon and Shery Cotton were the ones who got the ball rolling to create the housing foundation.

“When I found out we had abandoned houses on our street, I said this won’t stand — somebody has to step up,” he said. “I had no idea how (seriously Jon) was going to take my words.”

David Cotton said he’s excited to see the development in the Park and hopes more people will now get involved in the GPHF.

“They’ve really re-energized Grosse Pointe Park,” GPCC Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher said of the Cottons.

Dr. David Balle, chair of the Chamber Foundation Committee, praised the family for “their philanthropic efforts throughout the community that help to bring residents and businesses together,” and for “making Grosse Pointe Park a destination and a walkable downtown” that’s attractive to young people and gives them places to go locally.

Grosse Pointe Park leaders, likewise, said that the Cottons have played an instrumental role in recent development and growth in their city.

“They were the jump start for the economic redevelopment in our downtown area,” Park City Council member Laurie Arora said.

Park City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Gregory Theokas said Park officials “have the highest respect for their interest in our city.”

“They’ve added a new thrust to our efforts,” he continued. “We now have a combination of (support from) the city foundation and private enterprise to do a really great job.”

Lisa Mower Gandelot, of Grosse Pointe Farms, who is involved in a number of local nonprofits, said the Cottons have brought energy and excitement to the Park, which now has businesses that people of all ages are frequenting.

“I think they’ve done some extraordinary things for the community,” she said.

David Cotton, a high-risk perinatologist, is the founder and CEO of Meridian Health Plan; his wife and sons also occupy key roles with the company. In 2011, his sons honored their father’s legacy as a leader in saving lives during high-risk births by establishing the Shery L. and David B. Cotton, M.D. Family Birth Center at Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe. David Cotton said he started the Detroit Crime Commission, a nonprofit that works to prevent, investigate and prosecute crime, using law enforcement specialists who can assist local law enforcement agencies, and the commission makes grants available to units of government for law enforcement activities.

Funds raised by Lobster on the Lake were going to be used to pay for banners to be displayed in the Pointes promoting the GPCC’s new initiative, Boettcher said. The heart portion of the logo was created from the words “dine,” “shop” and “play.”

“It’s a tool to remind people to shop local and to use the resources we have here,” she said.