The Berrien Community Foundation celebrated 66 years of service by walking a mile – literally – in the shoes of those who struggle with reliable transportation and honoring an amazing volunteer.
The Berrien Community Foundation Transportation Challenge
There has been an ongoing discussion about the need for more extensive public transportation in Berrien County. In August staff members from the Berrien Community decided to see just how difficult it is to get to and from work and appointments in Berrien County.
“We walked in a torrential rain storm, waited for buses, rode bikes and called friends,” said Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “It was an exhausting, stressful week.”
One staff member went from Niles to Benton Harbor and back in a day. “In my car it would have taken a little over an hour,” said BCF staff member Brittney Rogers. “It took eight and a half hours!”
The people who make it to and from work using public transportation are determined and resilient employees, Cripps-Downey said. “We also found that the public transportation services are doing the best they can with the resources they have,” she said. “The buses are clean and the employees are kind and helpful.”
But if you don’t have your own transportation, it is hard to make it to work, to the doctor or to your children’s appointments. “This is a systemic issue and we owe it to our community to make it better,” Cripps-Downey said.
As a result of the Transportation Challenge, the Berrien Community Foundation recognized the New Heights CCDA Cars Ministry with the 2018 Golden Acorn Excellence in Innovation Award which includes a $4,000 grant. The Cars Ministry works with families in need of transportation to help them with family budgeting and then purchase a reliable car on payments for a total cost of $500. The ministry also has volunteer mechanics who take donated vehicles and turn them in to reliable modes of transportation. The Cars Ministry is beginning to do repairs on vehicles for the cost of the parts so that low-income families can get on the road again.
“We are doing this one family, one car at a time,” said New Heights Board President David Colp. “But it makes a difference. For that family it can be life changing… Without this kind of support we couldn’t keep doing the work we are doing.”
The “Ideal Volunteer”
Berrien Springs resident Dick Bartz was honored with the 2018 Golden Acorn Volunteer Award for his work on the Greater Berrien Springs Community Endowment. The award includes a $1,000 grant directed to the non-profit of his choice. To date the endowment has made almost $100,000 in grants to 25 different organizations serving the Greater Berrien Springs area.
Bartz has served on the committee since it began in 2000, and works diligently on publicity, grant review, fund raising and team building.
“We cannot begin to estimate the number of envelopes he has stuffed or people he has gathered to make all of the work happen,” said BCF Trustee Bill Schalk. “He is an ideal volunteer who leads with humility, determination and appreciation for all of the people who are working alongside of him.”
Bartz thanked his committee of long-time board members and the Berrien Springs community for its support.
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 $42 million in assets providing grants and scholarship throughout the County. The Foundation also provides opportunities for individuals to fulfill their charitable intentions through life-end giving and estate planning.