Berrien Community Foundation Intros New $75K Grant

The mantra, For Good Forever beats on thanks to the 67th consecutive year of activity in Michigan’s Great Southwest by the team at the Berrien Community Foundation.

The organization hosted its 6th Annual Meeting last night, Wednesday, September 18th, at the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center in St. Joseph and it proved to be a night full of giving as the year long re-cap showcased another highly successful year for the Foundation.

Perhaps the most excited in the room was St. Joseph Today Executive Director Amy Zapal who accepted the first ever Alamar Non-Profit Sustainability Grant totaling $75,000.

By way of explanation, Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey says, “The Alamar Non-Profit Sustainability Grant is $75,000 given over three years – $25,000 each year.” She adds, “This effort started when an anonymous donor approached the Community Foundation troubled when he saw non-profit employees working long hours for lower pay, and often without benefits.”

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The Alamar Non-Profit Sustainability Grant is awarded to support non-profits as they seek creative ways to take care of employees and find organizational sustainability. Cripps-Downey says, “This grant will be available to one Berrien County non-profit organization each year, not for a new program, but for operations.”

For her part, Zapal says, “This grant will allow us to provide health insurance and a retirement plan for our employees,” adding, “If they begin to invest in their retirement now, this could allow them to be givers when they are able to retire.”

Cripps-Downey says, “It’s these generous donors that help keep our non-profit sector strong,” and adds, “People forget that one in 10 jobs in the U.S. are in the non-profit sector.”

It was also a big night for the Ferry Street Resources Center in Niles which garnered the $50,000 Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Grant. That grant will support programming and efforts to bridge the gap between services that are difficult for south county residents to access because of transportation issues.

The Love Your Community Grant is presented each year to a Berrien County non-profit organization that addresses a crucial community need and makes a positive impact in the lives of Berrien County residents.

Presenting the award, Steve Upton’s son Jeff Upton said, “Working for over a decade now in Niles, Ferry Street Resource Center has accomplished many wonderful collaborative works for our Niles residents,” and notes, “We need this organization to grow and expand as our needs in south county expand. So, this year we are funding $25,000 immediately and will work with Ferry Street and encourage them to match another $25,000. This should bring total funding up to $75,000 allowing them to further grow and meet the community needs.”

Other Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Grant finalists included:

  • Bethany Christian Services – to expand the total of Berrien County foster care homes.
  • Lory’s Place – to expand services to grieving adults.
  • Southwest Michigan Planning Commission – to support the Paddle Berrien County initiative developing formal water trail plans on area water ways.

Ric Pawloski is Executive Director of Ferry Street Resource Center. He says, “This is incredible for our organization,” and adds, “We are serve hundreds of people every month with basic needs – housing, food, employment. This is so important.”

Berrien Community Foundation Program Manager Susan Matheny announced that $8.1 million in grants and scholarships were awarded in 2018 from all of the grant programs administered by the Berrien Community Foundation.

Matheny tells us, “More than numbers, the work we support improves lives all over Berrien County. From Food for students to take home on the weekends in Niles; to ramps for people with disabilities, our grants helped serve over 129,000 people.”

In a special tribute to the late John E.N. Howard, Lisa Cripps-Downey announced three new legacy funds from John E.N. Howard, who brought music to the lives of so many people and passed away at the age of 99 in November. John was the long-time director of the St. Joseph Municipal Band, the St. Joseph High School Band Director and a much loved philanthropist.

The Howard Community Projects Fund, The Program Endowment for Howard Facilities and The Youth Endowment Fund will care for facilities John and his wife Dede Howard created during his lifetime, ensure activities at those facilities and provide music opportunities for City of St. Joseph youth. The three funds continue John Howard’s legacy of Berrien County philanthropy.

Also on the docket last night were the Golden Acorn Awards.

The 2019 Golden Acorn Award for Arts Innovation, including a $4,000 grant, was presented to Ghostlight Theater in the Benton Harbor Arts District. In addition to being on hand to accept their award, the Ghostlight Theater cast of Urinetown performed a number from their recent production.

Phil Maki, Vice Chair of the BCF Board of Directors said, as he presented the award, “The Ghostlight took an abandoned building and changed it into a place where theater, music and art abound,” and added, “This volunteer effort shows how a great idea and a lot of hard work can turn into something wonderful for the entire community.”

Carol Oehlhaffen, a BCF volunteer for more than 30 years received the 2019 Golden Acorn Award for Volunteerism. Oehlhaffen has volunteered with the youth advisory committee, scholarship committees and multiple BCF volunteer efforts. She is also a long-standing volunteer with Birthright, Lake Michigan Catholic Schools and the Readiness Center. The award is accompanied by a $1,000 grant to the charity of her choice.

Some other featured projects that the Berrien Community Foundation highlighted at the event included The Women’s Giving Circle – funding projects for women & girls in Berrien County, Backpacks for Good – providing 750 backpacks with supplies for Coloma and Watervliet, and their leadership role as census hub for Census 2020.

The Berrien Community Foundation is a center of philanthropy in Berrien County holding endowment and other funds to support programs and projects throughout Berrien County.  These Community Foundation funds support the ever-changing needs of Berrien County now and into the future.  With more than $42 million in assets, The Foundation provides grants and scholarships plus opportunities for individuals across the County to fulfill charitable intentions through life-end giving and estate planning.