In and around Northport, it’s safe to say that nearly everyone knows Kent and Becky Holton. Kent founded Northport’s Music in the Park and still chooses the bands and runs the show for this beloved Friday-night tradition. He and Becky are also super involved in the Northport Community Arts Center. Kent is its longest serving board member; Becky serves as Treasurer and head usher. “We live in a great community, and feel like it’s important to give back,” says Becky.
The Holtons’ generosity extends well beyond their tiny village. We first met the Holtons over 20 years ago, when they started volunteering for the Leelanau Conservancy. Kent is an electrician and a sound magician of sorts, who for many years loaned his time and equipment to provide music and ensure that those speaking at our gatherings were heard loud and clear. “We came to a couple of events early on and I thought, ‘Wow, that sound is bad, and I can fix this,’” says Kent. “Whenever I was available, I helped out.” We can’t recall a time when Kent has said he wasn’t available. And so in 2014, we chose him as our Volunteer of the Year.
The Holtons have also been members of our Sustainers Circle for the last 17 years. And most recently, Becky and Kent have joined our Heritage Society. Through wills, bequests, and other estate planning, Heritage Society members ensure their support will not end after their lifetimes.
Kent, 61, was raised in Northport. “We think that the Conservancy is doing great work,” he says. “I’ve seen so many farms that I knew as a child convert to development and it’s really important to keep the old farms going that are left. These places and the forests are what give this county our character.”
Becky spent her summers growing up on Gills Pier. Her late mother, Mary Lyons, was also a Leelanau Conservancy “Volunteer of the Year” and served on the board of directors. She was also one of the earliest proponents of farmland preservation in Leelanau, and helped to start our local farm markets. “That’s how we got involved,” says Becky. “We attended a Conservancy Picnic at Peterson Park and I can remember thinking, ‘Everyone here really cares a lot.’” She is a fan of Clay Cliffs Natural Area, especially in winter, where she often meets friends to snowshoe. “I love the views of both lakes, and seeing the ice balls build up on the shore from the viewing platform up there.” Kehl Lake Natural Area, close to their home near Gills Pier, is her second favorite.
Late last year Becky and Kent notified us that they had named the Leelanau Conservancy as a beneficiary in their will. “I was the executor for my brother’s estate, who died unexpectedly,” says Becky, who works as a controller for a Traverse City restaurant chain. “He cared a great deal about a number of organizations he had been a part of, but had not included them in his will.” Becky surmises that given the chance, her brother might have updated his giving plans.
“It made me realize that we wanted to be really thoughtful about where to direct our money after we are gone, and to make sure that it will be put to good and meaningful use,” adds Becky. “We really believe in the Leelanau Conservancy, and know that our bequest will be used for something that we care a great deal about—protecting this incredible place.”
If you would like more information about joining the Heritage Society, please contact Planned Giving Officer, Stacie Longwell Sadowski: 231-256-9665 or [email protected].
Story published in the Leelanau Conservancy’s 2019 Annual Report