Berrien Community Foundation Awards over $100,000 in For Good Grants

BCF recently awarded more than $100,000 in For Good Grants to organizations as they resume programming and push to innovate themselves through the challenges COVID-19 has produced.

Inspired by their successful outdoor Acorn Anywhere! events in 2020, the Acorn Center for the Performing Arts sought funding to renovate a portion of their property into a welcoming atmosphere for live music concerts.

“This For Good Grant will make it possible for us to transform our backyard space — which hasn't been used for years — into a music venue where our patrons can gather to enjoy live music in a beautiful garden setting,” said Acorn Development Chair and Interim Executive Director Laura Jolly. “Even when this pandemic is behind us, we will have this new space to enjoy for years to come. The Acorn is very grateful to the Berrien Community Foundation for helping us turn our vision of a beautiful backyard music venue into a reality.”

Chikaming Open Lands is another recipient of the For Good Grant. The organization, located in Sawyer, will be able to construct new hiking pathways, and erect trail markers and new educational signs in their nature preserves across Harbor Country thanks to grant dollars. The organization leaders noticed an uptick in land usage while people where told to shelter in place and stay local during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being about to expand offerings at sites across their properties will offset the increase in usage demand and potentially overburdening nature.

“We are pleased to partner with so many service agencies to make Good happen in Berrien County,” said BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “There’s a lot of excitement and hope for the rest of 2021 and we gladly support these programs as they reimagine and restart programs.”

St. Joseph Today’s Love Local initiative will use grant dollars to help local businesses succeed after the stress of COVID-19.

"With support from the Berrien Community Foundation's For Good Grant, St. Joe Today will be able to create new programming to support area businesses and recreate events that have been successful in the past,” said St. Joseph Today Executive Director Amy Zapal “BCF's help will be a driver in restarting the local economy and provide much-needed help for post-pandemic recovery. St. Joe Today is grateful for the incredible work and vision of the Berrien Community Foundation."

Grant dollars will help YDC purchase supplies and equipment for the Watervliet After School Experience (WASE). Their goals throughout the program are to increase academic success, increase physical activities, creating a sense of community, increase STEM activities and provide impactful mentoring.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to respond to an expressed need for after school programs,” said YDC Executive Director Brook Blanchard. “Thanks to the generosity of the Berrien Community Foundation, we have been able to host an afterschool program in the Watervliet school district and are working out logistics to expand into the Coloma school district in the fall.”

The Berrien County Historical Association’s long-standing, hands-on Pioneer Day event is being reimagined for 2021 in the form of a box, thanks to funding from a For Good Grant. Instead of bringing hundreds of students to its Berrien Springs campus, staff are creating “Pioneer Day in a Box” kits, which will be sent to elementary school classrooms across the county. This change is needed in adherence to the Center for Disease guidelines.

Cizon added, “We’re still facing challenges so the only way we can continue to survive as an institution is if we do something a little different and take new risks.”

While many organizations seeking For Good Grants are gearing up to return to a business-as-usual reality, some nonprofits sought For Ever Operational Sustainability Grants in the latest grant cycle to cover basic operating expenses. Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra is a For Ever Operational Sustainability Grant recipient.

“This past year has been brutal for arts organizations everywhere,” said SMSO Executive Director Sue Kellogg. “The generosity of BCF will allow us to offer free "Pop Up" concerts to the community featuring SMSO musicians this summer as well as orchestra concerts at Silver Beach showcasing our four music director finalists!” 

As concerts and pop-up events are being scheduled, the For Ever Operational Sustainability Grant dollars will create a cushion for the organization as they continue to recover from the revenue lost due to the shutdown.

Community volunteers reviewed all grant applications as requests covered a broad range of community needs including the arts, children, community development, education, environment, health, seniors, and youth leadership and development. Also reviewing grants is T.E.A.M. (Teens Exhibiting Able Minds), the youth advisory committee for BCF made up of high school students from across Berrien County.

Grant recipients are:

For Good Grants:

  • Acorn Center for the Performing Arts — to convert outdoor space into a music venue.
  • Berrien County Conservation District to support farmers’ water testing requirement.
  • Calling All Colors — to resume in-person programming.
  • Chikaming Open Lands — to construct improvements in their nature preserves.
  • Eau Claire Public Schools — to purchase percussion and drumline equipment.
  • Fernwood Botanical Garden — for the holiday light show.
  • Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan — to make membership more accessible to girls in northern Berrien County.
  • LifePlan — for family support outreach in housing communities in Niles.
  • St. Joseph Today to support community events and placemaking.
  • YMCA of Greater Michiana — for a summer day camp in Niles.
  • Youth Development Company for supplies for after-school programming.

For Good Grants awarded by T.E.A.M.:

  • Berrien County Historical Association — for history projects to be done in academic environments.
  • Berrien County Youth Fair to update to an LED roadside sign.
  • Saint Joseph Rocket Football — for medical equipment and scholarships.
  • Water Street Glassworks — for students to learn glassblowing.

For Ever Operational Sustainability Grants:

  • Community Healing Centers/Carol’s Hope
  • Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra
  • Shadowland on Silver Beach

There are two grant cycles for For Good Grants; Applications for the next round are due by September 30. For questions or more information, please contact BCF Project Manager Susan Matheny at

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 $70 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. For information about BCF call 983-3304 or visit