Salvation Army receives grant from The Pokagon Fund for emergency financial assistance

NILES — Thanks to a recently awarded grant, one area nonprofit is taking steps to help community members keep their homes.

The Salvation Army in Niles recently received a grant for $10,000 from The Pokagon Fund to assist households in Dowagiac that are facing eviction due to financial hardship.

The funds will support the Salvation Army’s Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program. Those who qualify can receive financial assistance towards one month of rent or mortgage payment.

“Grants like this are incredibly helpful,” said Salvation Army of Niles Lieutenant Kendra Hixenbaugh. “We have been able to help so many families pay for rent and utilities more than we were able to before. With these funds, we are able to help people pay rent that’s behind a couple of months. We’re able to take some of that edge off for them and we’re only able to do that because of generous donors and grants. We are very thankful.”

Founded in 2007, The Pokagon Fund is a nonprofit private foundation supported by revenue from The Four Winds Casinos, which are owned and operated by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

According to its website, the fund’s mission is to enhance the lives of the residents of southwest Michigan through the financial support of initiatives in education, poverty reduction and community vitality.

Hixenbaugh and her husband, Joseph — also a lieutenant — have served as the Corps Officers in Niles since June 2017. According to Hixenbaugh, the grant came about thanks to the efforts of Development Coordinator Jim Cramer.

“He joined our team in late November,” she said. “They had been reaching out to foundations, and The Pokagon Fund was willing to help.”

“We want to help prevent the overwhelming impact an eviction can have on families”, Cramer said in a press release. “Dowagiac is a community that we want to be able to serve more efficiently. The grant from Pokagon Fund will allow us to assist 15 to 20 households and, hopefully, find out what other needs can be met to prevent this hardship in the future. We are very grateful to the Pokagon Fund for seeing the value in our efforts.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the efforts of many nonprofits but Hixenbaugh said the pandemic has not impacted its social services.

“We have been blessed,” she said. “We closed our doors so we weren’t in physical contact with everyone. We were able to keep our food pantry by bringing goods outside the door to those in need.”

The Salvation Army still offers programs including its Feeding His Sheep, a backpack outreach program aiming to provide balanced, nutritional meals to school children in Berrien and Cass counties over the weekends.

Children are selected to participate in the program by counselors at the school they attend, with parental participation and consent required. Each week, the participating children receive at school a red backpack filled with breakfast, lunch and dinner components for Saturday and Sunday.

“145 kids have signed up so far,” she said. “We need volunteers to pack and deliver bags to the schools for the counselors to distribute.”

Individuals in need of assistance can contact the Salvation Army at (269) 684-2660 or online at SANiles.org. An application process is required for all inquiries.

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