Foundation gives out awards, hosts informational session

Published 9:20 am Thursday, February 21, 2019

NILES — Last week at the Niles District Library, the Berrien Community Foundation presented grants to a variety of Niles nonprofits seeking to better their local community.

In addition to awarding a variety of local nonprofits and project leaders, Susan Matheny, the program manager for the Berrien Community Foundation, said she also wanted to host an information session that could make people aware of the number of grant opportunities available through the foundation.

“We are hoping to see even more applications this year,” Matheny said.  “We have really been trying to reach out and make folks aware that they can apply.”

The following Niles organizations were awarded For Good grants:

• Boy Scout Troop 579, $1,000 for Project Pan Handle

• Buchanan Senior Center, $2,600 for Raised Bed Gardens

• Niles District Library, $8,000 for Community Center at the Library

• Performing Arts Workshop, $4,500 for equipment and scholarships

• Niles Salvation Army, $3,000 for Feeding His Sheep

• YMCA, $10,000 for Summer My Way

• The Niles History Center for exhibits

Lisa Cripps-Downey, the president of the Berrien County Community Foundation, said it felt great to give funds to a variety of local causes. 

“I think it is always fun to give out dollars and you really see how much they appreciate, not just the financial support, but the vote of confidence and appreciation for the good work that they are all doing,” Cripps-Downey said. “Nonprofits do so much in our community to make peoples’ lives better.”

Cripps-Downey and Matheny said they hope the grant awards and presentation last week can serve as an example to the variety of funds available through the Berrien Community Foundation. 

“In the last couple of years, we have really been trying to reach out and make sure that people are aware they can apply,” Matheny said. “The organizations that can apply are not just 501c3s or nonprofits, religious organizations that are doing community work that is a recent change, schools and municipality organizations.”

A number of student scholarships are among the available grants offered by the Berrien County Community Foundation. With the work the Berrien Community Foundation does, a number of other foundations are also connected with the organization and could also help to provide opportunities.

Matheny said the Berrien Community Foundation grants often have deadlines and if no one applies, that money cannot be spent.

“Every year, there is a certain amount available, and we don’t want to leave money on the table, because we know there is need out there that needs to be filled,” Matheny said.

Matheny and Cripps-Downy said they are seeing an uptick in grant applications each year. They are also seeing more residents take advantage of smaller grants that can have a significant impact. A number of Golden Acorn Classroom Mini Grants for up to $500 have been awarded to Niles school teachers.

“It just seemed like it caught on and a bunch of teachers applied and a bunch of them were very successful in getting these small grants for their classroom to do projects that tend to come out of teachers’ pockets,” Cripps-Downey said.

To apply, those who think their organization or community effort could qualify can visit the Berrien Community Foundation’s website to see grant opportunities and apply.

The foundation also offers workshops and guidelines that can provide information on applying for a grant or writing a grant. Guidelines can be found online at Both Matheny and Cripps-Downey also encouraged people to call or email them with questions if they need help applying for a grant.

From students and teachers to nonprofits and churches, Matheny and Cripps-Downey said there is a grant for them available.

“We know they are doing great work and we want to be part of that,” Matheny said.