Noted Southwest Michigan Philanthropist Steve Upton found another local group to shower some love upon Wednesday night when his $50,000 Annual Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Grant through the Berrien Community Foundation was presented to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor.
The award was announced last evening at the 66th Annual Meeting and Celebration of the Berrien Community Foundation, and it will fund the “Be There” program to help kids learn to cope with loss and trauma and develop skills to cope with trials and adversity in life.
Brian Saxton is CEO and Director of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor. He responded by saying, “This is quite a surprise.” Saxton added, “We had lost four of our teen members…It turns out the skills you need to deal with loss are the same as you need to deal with adversity…We have every evidence that this program is saving lives.”
The Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Grant is an annual award to a non-profit organization in Berrien County. Before announcing the winner, Steve Upton to the audience last night, "We sat down as a committee to review these grants,” and added, “Working on the committee with Bill Marohn and JC Anderson is such a privilege and it was so difficult to pick.”
Upton said the committee felt the Boys & Girls Clubs grant would help so many children with the Be There program and that it was important for kids to learn how to cope with life problems. Still, the decision was difficult. “It’s a $50,000 grant,” he said. “I think that’s pretty good!”
Steve's wife Elizabeth was gracious, saying, “Thank you everyone for the work that you do and for sharing these grants with us,” and concluded, “They were such wonderful grants.”
In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, the 2018 finalists were:
- Chikaming Open Lands – the purchase of a 49-acre parcel near Warren Woods State Park for public use and preservation;
- The Cherry Beach Project – The UnDevelopment Fund, an effort to extend the public beach through the purchase of land adjacent to the current Cherry Beach;
- Lakeland Health Foundation –Mental Health: Creating a Community of Hope & Healing project to reduce, overcome and prevent trauma;
- St. Joseph Lincoln Senior Center – To support the creation of an outdoor walking trail;
- Warrior Princess House of Benton Harbor – A program to provide transitional housing and support for women coming out of prison.