2006-12-28 / News

Six Projects Unite for Fundraising Drive With Les Cheneaux Community Foundation

By Amy Polk

Les Cheneaux Community Foundation is leading a fundraising drive for six community improvement projects in Clark Township by distributing a brochure to promote Clark Township’s recreation project and prospective Bon Air project, Les Cheneaux Bike Path, Les Cheneaux Watershed Council’s Cedarville Bay improvement, Great Lakes School of Wooden Boat Building, and Les Cheneaux Community Library. The foundation will administer the money received and deposit it in funds for the programs.

Presenting a menu of funding options to potential donors will make it easier to give, said Foundation President Rick Shapero, while allowing project planners to collaborate rather than compete against each other for donor dollars.

“What generates this is not just fundraising,” he said. “It is also creating a vision for our community and how we want to look in five to 10 years. We’re hoping to unify community goals and create a vision for the future. These projects are all seeking to enhance our community and help define how we would like this community to grow, if it is to grow.”

Mr. Shapero noted the foundation also started a new Economic Development Fund with a $10,000 grant from the Highfield Foundation. Seeking to find a solution to creating and keeping commerce in the Les Cheneaux Islands area, the foundation awards grants from this fund for consulting, marketing, feasibility studies, and other activities that may stimulate the local economy. The fund was launched in the spring and has already attracted another $20,000 from supportive donors with the Highfield and Noyes foundations.

The community has been able to attract funding from major sources like the Department of Environmental Quality, General Motors, and Kellogg Foundation of Michigan, which first issued the challenge grant that launched the Community Foundation, and many others around the state.

“I think we are uniquely suited to be successful in our fundraising efforts,” Mr. Shapero said. “Everybody needs to be successful here, and we hope it’s going to bring more recognition to the projects, and if this campaign is successful, it will become a barometer for the kinds of projects people are interested in. It’s one way of checking the pulse of the community.”

The six projects represent diverse community groups, but ultimately share the same goals of improving the economy and attracting new residents to town.

Last month, the Clark Township board joined the fundraising campaign with two projects, its recreation project and endorsed an citizen-driven initiative to improve or develop the former Bon Air property in Cedarville. A committee is researching options and will poll 200 randomly selected residents for ideas. The Community Foundation awarded an Economic Development Fund grant to help offset the cost of the surveys and an environmental assessment.

The four-year recreation project began this year with preparation of the site, erecting a pavilion, and excavation. Next year will see two baseball diamonds, basketball and volleyball courts, and a playground. In 2008 will be restrooms and tennis courts, and 2009 will see an ice rink and lighting. Down the road are plans to landscape and add picnic tables, grills, horseshoe pits, and benches. Contributions have come from Michigan Limestone Operations, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Frank Taylor, and McMaken Carpentry. The foundation awarded $5,000 and has made a $6,300 challenge grant that will be awarded if the Recreation Committee raises $3,150.

Excavation for the new Great Lakes School of Wooden Boat Building has begun on Meridian Road, with classes slated to begin next summer. The school will provide vocational instruction in wooden boat construction and restoration through three, six, and

nine-month programs. David Janz of Hessel was hired as head instructor in early December and will develop and coordinate the curriculum.

The Les Cheneaux Watershed Council wants to raise $24,000 by March to buy weevils to control the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil. The group also wants to reduce the nutrients entering Cedarville Bay by the township’s wastewater treatment process. The Watershed Council has received $600,000 from the Department of Environmental Quality to stabilize stream banks, improve stream crossings at roads, educate the public about water quality, and assist with Clark Township’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance revisions. The grant requires $50,000 in matching local funds.

Les Cheneaux Community Library has launched a five-year, $700,000 fundraising campaign to create a secure source of income to pay for operations and maintenance. The Friends of the Les Cheneaux Community Library has already raised more than $250,000 toward that goal.

“Many of these organizations are ones we have already donated to, and this is just a further step in helping them,” Mr. Shapero said. “Hopefully, this will cut down on the number of mailings being sent out, and we hope in four years these organizations have raised their money and we can do this with other organizations.”

The Mary Shapero Fund, which was started by Mr. Shapero in memory of his mother, paid for the promotional materials. “She cared about community

activism and its role in helping build communities and community capacity,” Mr. Shapero said of his mother.

“I think we have an unusual community in that our seasonal residents are deeply involved, and I think they feel an equal commitment to this community as the locals do,” he added. “There are differences [between seasonal and year-around residents], but I don’t think there is a divide. What brings us together is that we all share a common love for, and committment to, the well-being and future of the Les Cheneaux Islands. None of us want the Les Cheneaux Islands to just happen.”

The Foundation awarded more than $50,000 in grants and scholarships in 2006, and the year’s final grants were awarded Tuesday evening, December 19.

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