Robert & Karen Wiltse own the Charity Island light-keepers’ home and are the Island’s only “full time” residents.
Wiltses make the Island their home nine months of year from which they manage Charity Island Excursions, a family owned and operated ferryboat service.
Their daughter Sarah provides help with marketing and merchandising and son, Jerry, provides the technical computer assistance.
After acquiring the Island in 1992 the Wiltse’s made the decision to sell most of the island to the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service in 1997 to ensure its natural resources were protected from future development.
Included in the “Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge” system and managed by the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service (F& WS) since 1997, Big Charity Island was acquired by the F&WS to be held as a wildlife sanctuary. Its isolated beaches and unique hardwood forest provides excellent habitat for a variety of plants and animals. Many rare and protected species of plants grow on the Island including; Pitchers Thistle, acres of Trillium, Jack in the Pulpit, and Pink Lady Slippers; to name just a few.
Big Charity Island is located approximately ten miles offshore in the middle of Saginaw Bay between the port city of Caseville to the East, and Au Gres to the west. The Island consists of almost three hundred acres of forest and three miles of shoreline on Lake Huron, and is home to a multitude of wildlife species including neo-tropical songbirds, bald eagles, raccoons, foxes, mink, and more.
Big Charity Island is also home to a very unique archaeological site. The limestone bedrock formation that outcrops along the Island’s northern shore has mineral deposits known as “chert ” embedded in it. Chert is a form of flint that was a very important material for making stone tools to the people who lived in this area long before there was contact with European explorers. Known as a quarrying site, Big Charity Island is heavily littered with the remains of the stone tool-making activity by generations of Native Americans from over 1500 years ago. (See History)