Drive-In Style Annual Mtg Features $175,000 in Berrien Community Foundation Awards

About the only thing missing was the cheesy dancing hot dog and soda cup singing, “Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go…” Well, you get the picture. Thanks to pandemic conditions continuing to prevail all across the land, the Berrien Community Foundation turned back the clock to drive-in movie style presentations.

Outside, big screen, cars parked and popcorn in hand. The Berrien Community Foundation’s 68th Annual Meeting & Celebration held as a drive-in movie at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center parking lot was a fitting way to commemorate 2020.

Lisa Cripps-Downey, BCF President, says, “We still wanted to gather and talk about the work that has been done this year to help the community,” adding, “Like much of the other things we have done this year, we had to find a creative and safe way to make it happen.”

The Berrien Community Foundation provided more than $7.3 million in grants during 2019 including over $160,000 in scholarships to local students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Berrien Community Foundation gave a $50,000 grant and partnered with United Way of Southwest Michigan and South Haven Community Foundation to oversee the Southwest Michigan Cares Fund.  Jointly, the Southwest Michigan Cares Fund has raised just over $1 million. To date, grants of almost $600,000 have been made to local organizations for basic needs, utilities, rent and mortgage assistance. Grants continue to be made weekly to support community needs.

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The Foundation also partnered with Cornerstone Alliance with a $60,000 grant for the Rent And Mortgage Payment Program to provide interest free loans to local businesses and nonprofit organizations struggling during COVID-19.

The Berrien Community Foundation Arts Challenge partnered with an anonymous donor to challenge the community to raise $75,000 to support 10 local arts organizations. The challenge garnered $216,538 to support the basic operations of the arts organizations that have been unable to operate fully during COVID-19.

BCF also held drive-up backpack and school supply events, providing backpacks to 1,649 families in Coloma, Watervliet and Niles.

Regarding the foundation’s COVID-19 response, Cripps-Downey says, “We had to re-think business as usual and we had to dig in,” and adds, “We talk about BCF helping resources meet needs – it absolutely had to happen this year, and it did.”

During the celebration, Berrien Community Foundation announced three large grants totaling $175,000 to Berrien County nonprofits.

To kick off the evening, The Alamar Non-Profit Sustainability Grant was awarded to Neighbor by Neighbor, a nonprofit focused on connecting residents of Harbor Country with basic resources and services to address immediate needs while also encouraging them to take steps toward greater self-sufficiency. In its second year, the Alamar Grant is $75,000 given over three years – $25,000 each year – to support non-profits as they seek creative ways to take care of employees and find organizational sustainability. This grant will allow the organization to focus on staff support, board development and fundraising.

Neighbor by Neighbor Director Linnea Berg said, “We are extraordinarily grateful,” adding, “We had challenges before COVID, but now with this we will have stability.

2020 Partnership Grant

The Berrien Community Foundation and the Frederick S. Upton Foundation partnered to provide a surprise $50,000 grant to The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan. The grant will help create programming to enhance child abuse prevention programs needed during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Jamie Rossow, Executive Director of The Children’s Advocacy Center, said, “We are just so excited and thrilled,” adding, “This will allow us to provide prevention and intervention on the road with added technology.”

The Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Grant

The $50,000 Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Grant, was presented to YMCA of Greater Michiana. The grant will support a new daycare program for low and middle income families in Niles with a new model to help make daycare more affordable.

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.

Mark Weber, Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Michiana, said, “Thank you for this recognition of the work we are doing,” adding, “We were called to provide first responders daycare and we brought the solution. Now we will be able to provide quality daycare to low income families.

Golden Acorn Excellence Awards

The 2020 Golden Acorn Excellence Award, including a $4,000 grant, was presented to Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan.

BCF Board Member Mabel Mayfield says, “We have all learned that Covid-19 poses a greater threat to senior citizens,” and adds, “Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan was there to help. Staff and volunteers didn’t go home. They dramatically increased the number of seniors they were serving every day. They continue to provide meals to homebound seniors every day and for many, Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan is the only daily touchpoint and wellness check they receive.”

Traci Burton and M’Shannon Rockette, who volunteered to create an award winning Census video and creative Census 2020 events received the 2020 Golden Acorn Award for Volunteerism. Their efforts and dedication helped to increase the number of people filling out the census and secure millions in census-based funding for the next decade.

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.  Those Community Foundation funds support the ever-changing needs of Berrien County now and into the future. With more than $56 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.