Community Far Exceeds Challenge Grant Goal for Emergency Shelter Services

A $40,000 check is ready to be cashed by Emergency Shelter Services after a challenge grant moved community members to give above and beyond, raising a total of $104,000.

Berrien Community Foundation, Hanson Family Foundation, Frederick S. Upton Foundation and the Felland Fund pooled their resources to offer a 4-to-1 challenge grant to the community to help fund much needed repairs at the family homeless shelter in Benton Harbor. Because of the challenge, every $1 donated by the community would be matched by $4, up to $40,000.      

"When I threw the Love Your Shelter fundraiser out there, I knew we would reach our goal, but I am overwhelmed by the response we got,” said Emergency Shelter Services Executive Director Reshella Hawkins. “This is big for our community. It’s big for our staff and big for the people who utilize this building. This is showing them that somebody does care.”

To receive the $40,000, ESS was required to raise $10,000. However, the community heard the call and answered abundantly to the tune of $64,000.

“These repairs were needed so desperately,” said Berrien community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “We also knew that construction costs are high and, when dealing with older homes, there are always surprises. We were so fortunate to partner with the Hanson Family Foundation, Frederick S. Upton Foundation and the Felland Fund to make this happen. We all saw what a great service ESS provides, and we wanted to move the community to give more. This is the only family shelter in Berrien County.”

The money will go toward much-needed upgrades to the 1870s nine-bedroom, five-bath home that houses families experiencing homelessness. ESS has had the house for nearly five decades but was unable to complete major renovations. Now, the original drafty windows will be replaced, new flooring will be laid down, the foundation will be tended to, and fixtures will be changed.

“Emergency Shelter Services is needed in our fine community because they create a space for families to escape the sometimes-harsh Midwest weather,” said Jeff Upton, the Frederick S. Upton Foundation board chair. “Our board supports the vision of ESS and the tasks before them in repairing the shelter to provide a warm and welcoming home.”

For more than four decades, the Emergency Shelter Services has a been a lifeline to many in Berrien County who experience homelessness. Those families work with a case manager to create a plan to secure stable housing and to get back on their feet. People can stay for up to 90 days as they work to meet their housing and employment goals.

To learn more about Emergency Shelter Services, visit