Students all over Berrien County who need help paying for college will have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship through the newly-established Trefz Family Scholarship Fund. The Berrien Community Foundation announced a $500,000 estate gift that established the fund at the 2017 Annual Meeting & Celebration Wednesday evening at the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center.
“This is such a great story of how Josephine Trefz took the opportunity to care for this community and provide something that she wanted to have – a college education,” said BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “The story behind the fund is such a great example of philanthropy – caring for her family and caring for her community.”
Josephine and Richard Trefz purchased 17 acres of beachfront property in 1953 for $7,500. Together, they worked and built their home on the property. Josephine worked as a secretary at V-M Corporation in Benton Harbor and Richard worked at the Studebaker plant in South Bend.
In 1968, they sold the land to Lincoln Township for $45,000. That land became part of what we now know as Lincoln Township Park. It was combined with another parcel to create the park which is now over 34 acres with more than 400 feet of public lake front access.
“I love the idea that this gift provided both a space so many people enjoy through Lincoln Township Beach and then went on to build a scholarship fund,” Cripps-Downey said.
According to family members, Josephine and Richard invested the funds for retirement. In 1997, Josephine established a trust that would help take care of her and her siblings during their lifetimes and, upon their deaths, the remainder would be distributed, predominantly to form the scholarship fund. Josephine’s three siblings had all gone to college and is was something she would have wanted for herself, according to her nephew.
“A land purchase that first helped create a public park for all of us to enjoy will now create a $500,000 scholarship endowment to support approximately $20,000 in scholarships each year for low-income students in Berrien County through the Trefz Family Scholarship Fund,” Cripps-Downey announced. “Scholarships applications will be available for students starting next year.”