BCF Grants

Meals on Wheels of SW Michigan - Senior Nutrition Services: The wait is over for many Berrien County seniors. Senior Nutrition Service - Meals on Wheels is happy to report they have not needed a waitlist since receiving a $10,000 grant from the Berrien Community Foundation last fall.  Meals on Wheels provides hot meals as well as warm smiles and wellness checks for homebound seniors in Berrien County. These hot meals and visits can be the difference between living at home vs. living in an assisted living facility and, in some cases, can be the difference between life and death. 
Last year, demand for meal delivery for homebound seniors increased 45% from the previous year. By implementing the “No Senior Hungry in Berrien County” program in December, they have eliminated the need for a waitlist and served over 33,000 meals during this time. This represents meals to more than 300 hungry seniors.
In addition to the hot meals, the Meals on Wheels drivers provide a welcome visit and wellness check for their clients. “These drivers, over time, really begin to know the people they are delivering to,” said Executive Director Linda Strohl. “They know who always comes to the door right away and who needs a bit of rousing to get to the door.” Strohl remembered a driver who delivered meals to a woman who usually answered the door right away. He knocked and knocked on the door but no one came to the door. When the driver was unable to reach the emergency contact for the woman, 9-1-1 was called. Police came and found the woman had fallen and was unable to get up or yell loud enough to be heard. In this case, the wellness check became just as important as the food itself.

Fernwood Nature Center Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve is doing a little “pruning” of their own! As part of the Berrien Community Foundation’s fall competitive grant cycle, Fernwood received $10,000 to update their library content and modernize their organization management system. Before completing the update, they need to sort through and modernize the collection - such as removing all of the titles that promote heavy use of chemicals or other outdated practices. Once these titles are removed they will add up-to-date titles on topics like birding, wildlife, botany, horticulture and gardening. All of the new titles will be placed on an online, searchable database.

Carol Line, Executive Director at Fernwood, says the current library gets some attention from Fernwood’s members, but it’s not in a prominent location. With the new Education Center being built this fall, the library will have a new and more prominent location. 

The library has a specialized collection of books and resource materials dedicated to environmental, nature-related and horticultural topics. Line say, “We know we are the keepers of a collection you would not be able to find elsewhere locally and we take that pretty seriously.” While preparations are being made to begin construction on the Education Center, Line and her team of staff and volunteers want to make sure they have the best collection possible when they make this move thanks to this grant from the Berrien Community Foundation.
 
 
 
 

 

Curious Kids Museum: In December 2015, the Curious Kids’ Museum unveiled their newest exhibit, “Dream with Da Vinci.” This exhibit is funded in part by a Berrien Community Foundation Competitive Grant and additional grants from BCF’s Donor Advised Funds.

The exhibit is geared for children ages 4- 12 and takes a look at the works and inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci, “the father of modern science.” ”Dream with Da Vinci” includes 12 hands-on stations to learn about the Renaissance Era and Da Vinci’s art and ideas. It is based on the art and inventions found in Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. 

“Guests have gone out of their way to let us know how much their children like it,” said CKM Executive Director, Lori Marciniak. “How they have a hard time pulling their kids away from it, and how their children of varying ages (from toddler to pre-teen) all found something they loved in the exhibit!” 
 
Children can catapult bean bags, experiment with parachutes, see themselves as the Mona Lisa, or even try their hands at being a sculptor. One area of the exhibit recreates Da Vinci’s perspectograph, an invention he used to show depth and dimension in his portraits. Children are able to try it for themselves. They can also put on costumes and sit for their own portraits! These are just some of the activities offered in the exhibit.

Aside from the learning and fun involved in the “Dream with Da Vinci” exhibit, the Berrien Community Foundation grant committee members liked the sustainability aspect of the project. “I think it is always attractive to our grant committee volunteers to see our non-profit organizations looking at ways to be sustainable,” said Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “This project was easy to support because it both created a wonderful learning opportunity for kids and a way to support the museum’s operations in the future.” 
 
“Dream with Da Vinci” is available at the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone in its Lou and Warren Gast Traveling Exhibit Gallery until August 2016.  Once the exhibit is retired locally, it will move on to be rented by other children’s museums and science centers all over the country, creating a revenue source for the Museum. This is the first traveling exhibit completely imagined, designed and built by the Curious Kids’ Museum.
 
“This additional source of income for the museum will be so helpful as we continue to pursue high quality traveling exhibits, occasionally create our own for the gallery and maybe even try our hand at another Curious Kids’ Museum developed traveling exhibit!” The exhibit will also be able to come back to the Curious Kids Discovery Zone for display from time to time.
 
 Since it’s opening in 2010, the Gast Traveling Exhibit Gallery has housed 10 traveling exhibits, all rented from other museums for a short amount of time. 
“We are glad we could play a small part in making this project available to the community,” Cripps-Downey said. “We hope families come to the Discovery Zone and take advantage of this amazing opportunity the staff and volunteers at Curious Kids Museum has put together.”


 

Renaissance Enterprises:  Artist Jerry Ball was pushing his equipment down the hall preparing to leave after a performance when the activity center director stopped him. She directed him to an elderly woman, who whispered “just one more,” to him. This woman, according to the staff, hadn’t spoken to any staff or family in over two months. And she was asking him to play one more song.

People isolated in nursing homes, care facilities, and senior centers do not typically have access to the fine arts. Renaissance Enterprises brings live music and all its benefits to those unable to seek them out. The staff of Renaissance Enterprises believes in the healing powers of music and the arts, and has seen proof like that of the woman speaking to Jerry Ball above, many times over.  They hope to comfort the elderly population they reach, who are often in the last years of their lives, and assure them they are not forgotten. With funding from The Berrien Community Foundation Renaissance Enterprises will support artist fees so they can continue to “put smiles on the faces of our residents.”
 


Fernwood:  With the help of Berrien Community Foundation, Fernwood brought in sculptor Patrick Dougherty to produce one of his stickwork pieces to celebrate 50 years of serving the community. Dougherty’s creation process involves many local volunteers. “We make a community in the time it takes to make a sculpture,” he commented. Fernwood volunteer Molly B. Moon journaled her experiences, viewable on the Fernwood website, and noted, “This whole project is cause for celebration...It’s been great fun...to help him build one of those great big sculptures, to be part of the community, to gain confidence through the experience.”

The unique part of Dougherty’s stickwork art is the way it changes due to the elements. His pieces work with natural materials, such as reeds, underbrush, and sticks, and are morphed by nature acting upon them. Volunteers cut the materials up and harvested willow, the medium used for the sculpture. This not only served the sculpture, but was a great help to trimming the overgrowth of willow along the highways, saving MDOT a bit of work.

Volunteers helped to build the support structure and eventually helped him weave the willow into the final sculpture. Dougherty and volunteers worked over the first three weeks of April to create Take Five (the name of the stickwork art). Visitors can now walk through the art piece while visiting Fernwood.
 


Junior Achievement: With the current state of economy and employment, it’s easy to be a pessimist about the future job market for today’s children. The Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana works to prepare students in Michiana for the working world. Educators provide real-world examples and simulations, with hands-on activities to help children understand basics of economics and employment, as well as personal finance and money management. 
 

From 2013-2014, The Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana will reach over 4000 students in Berrien County classrooms. Junior Achievement programs teach young students about skills needed for economic success, such as understanding the global economy and the realities of employment. With the grant they received from the Berrien Community Foundation, Junior Achievement is able to continue work with existing programs, as well as grow and work with an additional 29 Berrien County classrooms.