Thanks to a generous endowment gift to the Berrien Community Foundation from Steve and Elizabeth Upton, Berrien County non-profit organizations will have the opportunity to receive a grant of at least $50,000 each year to support needs in the community.
The Stephen E. Upton Love Your Community Endowment was announced at the Berrien Community Foundation’s 64th Annual Meeting & Celebration Wednesday evening at the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center. The endowment gift will be part of Steve Upton’s legacy of giving.
“Steve not only loves Berrien County, he believes in the hearts and spirits of the people who live here,” said BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey as she announced the new endowment. “Steve never says it’s time to give up when a problem is too big. He says we have to look at it in another way. We have to try harder. We have to come back to the table. We have to love more.”
The $1.2 million endowment will allow non-profits to participate in a competitive grant process resulting in one grant of at least $50,000 each year. The grant will be awarded to a different non-profit organization each year and is available to any area of interest.
“The endowment will forever serve as a reminder of the kindness, generosity and love Steve and his wife Elizabeth have shown to Berrien County,” Cripps-Downey said. “Through this endowment he will continue to give to us and to teach us what it really means to love and believe in your community.”
In a surprising twist, the first grant winner was announced at the meeting. The Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) in Watervliet was the first $50,000 grant recipient for the TEC for Vets Program. The program uses horses to provide therapy for our wounded veterans. Whether the need is emotional due to post traumatic stress or physical because of injuries suffered during service, the horses find a special way to relate to and help our veterans.
Golden Acorn Excellence Awards
The Berrien Community Foundation also announced the winners of the 2016 Golden Acorn Excellence Awards. The awards are given to organizations that received Berrien Community Foundation grants over the past two years. The winning organizations showed excellence in their programming in the areas of Volunteerism, Innovation, Community Impact and Overall Excellence. The winning organizations receive an additional $1,000 for the program with the Overall Excellence winner receiving $2,000.
The Golden Acorn Award for Overall Excellence was awarded to Curious Kids Museum for its Dream with DaVinci program. Dream with DaVinci is the Curious Kids' Museum's first in-house designed traveling exhibit. It took a volunteer army to make this happen. What makes this program so impactful is the focus on DaVinci’s Art, Flight and Simple Machine drawings, topics that are very relevant to the current STEM and STEAM initiatives in the education of youth in our community. The exhibit includes incredible opportunities for hands-on learning and fun. This exhibit was designed, built and is largely run by volunteers with the Curious Kids Museum.
The project is extremely innovative as it also created an income stream. By designing, building and owning the exhibit, CKM created something they could rent to other museums, thus bringing in continuous funding when not in residence at the Curious Kids Museum.
The Golden Acorn for Excellence in Volunteerism was awarded to Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank for the Mobile Food Pantry. The mobile food pantry through Feeding America provides thousands of pounds of both fresh and shelf stable food to families in Southwest Michigan who are in need. The Food Pantry truck arrives full of food and a host organization, such as a company, a church, a school or a non-profit provide the volunteers who greet and serve the families who attend the pantry stop. This happens every week at a location somewhere in Berrien County. The pantry allows volunteers to help families who are food insecure get much-needed pantry items with dignity and a giant helping of care and compassion from the volunteers.
The Golden Acorn for Excellence in Community Impact was awarded to The Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor for the Night Court Program.
On Friday nights in the summer, when the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor’s Teen Center is normally closed, Night Court is in session. Night Court is a unique program that combines mentoring and basketball to help members focus on positive behaviors and develop strong relationships with adult volunteer community leaders. Using basketball as the medium, this program includes skill-building, adult mentoring, coaching, healthy meals, and group social activities into one program. Night Court takes place during the hours when teens are most likely to get in trouble with local authorities AND it uses those same local authority figures as mentors in the program.
The Golden Acorn Award for Excellence in Innovation was awarded to The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center for their Sports in Southwest Michigan Exhibit. “Sports in Southwest Michigan” is a colorful display of historic uniforms, equipment, trophies, sporting event photos and media, inspires visitors with local stories, while providing interactive activities for all ages. There are autographs from sports legends, vintage baseball uniforms from the Auscos and the House of David,
as well as the jersey worn by pro-football star Joique Bell when he played for Benton Harbor High School. The Heritage Museum showed innovation in exhibit planning by reaching out to over 30 local organizations, businesses, individuals and families to share their stories and artifacts as well as the innovation of the presentation of the exhibit itself. As a result of this incredible effort the museum was chosen to also host the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “Hometown Teams: Sports Shape America.”
About the Berrien Community Foundation
The Berrien Community Foundation works to be the center of philanthropy in Berrien County. BCF holds endowment and other funds that help to fund programs and projects throughout Berrien County. Through these funds the Community Foundation is able to support the ever-changing needs of Berrien County now and into the future. The Foundation holds over $40 million in assets providing grants and scholarship throughout the County. The Foundation also provides opportunities for individuals to fulfill their charitable intentions.