THE NEXT DECADE

THE NEXT DECADE

family in front yard

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

In 2018, The Pokagon Fund encouraged residents to join a community-wide, needs-assessment designed to identify local issues most crucial to future economic development in Harbor Country. One of the top four challenges was the lack of affordable housing. With 41% of Three Oaks and New Buffalo residents living at or below 200% of poverty, and with the median sales price of a home in New Buffalo hovering at $400,000, housing options are limited. This is an issue often seen in rural, tourism-based economies where hospitality and retail trade dominate local businesses, wages are relatively low and external market demand from second-home buyers is high.

There is no easy solution to the issue of affordable housing given the interconnection between job creation, the absence of a qualified work force to support newly-created jobs and the lack of housing inventory needed to attract a skilled work force.

In an effort to ignite community discussion and future action around this issue, the Fund supported proactive planning through a newly-formed committee of residents, units of government and religious leaders who are researching available options for Harbor Country.

In the meantime, the Fund is providing maintenance support for programs that require assistance, such as the Chestnut Towers project of the Dowagiac Housing Commission and is encouraged by the successes of the Pokagon Band’s Department of Housing in providing affordable housing to members of the band in Dowagiac, Hartford, and South Bend.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

In 2018, The Pokagon Fund encouraged residents to join a community-wide, needs-assessment designed to identify local issues most crucial to future economic development in Harbor Country. One of the top four challenges was the lack of affordable housing. With 41% of Three Oaks and New Buffalo residents living at or below 200% of poverty, and with the median sales price of a home in New Buffalo hovering at $400,000, housing options are limited. This is an issue often seen in rural, tourism-based economies where hospitality and retail trade dominate local businesses, wages are relatively low and external market demand from second-home buyers is high.

There is no easy solution to the issue of affordable housing given the interconnection between job creation, the absence of a qualified work force to support newly-created jobs and the lack of housing inventory needed to attract a skilled work force.

In an effort to ignite community discussion and future action around this issue, the Fund supported proactive planning through a newly-formed committee of residents, units of government and religious leaders who are researching available options for Harbor Country.

In the meantime, the Fund is providing maintenance support for programs that require assistance, such as the Chestnut Towers project of the Dowagiac Housing Commission and is encouraged by the successes of the Pokagon Band’s Department of Housing in providing affordable housing to members of the band in Dowagiac, Hartford, and South Bend.

BROADBAND

Businesses, educational facilities, residents, the agricultural industry and health care providers require access to high-speed internet and cell phone service to support operations, jobs and personal needs. Unfortunately, Harbor Country has not kept pace in this critical area.

In 2013, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in collaboration with Connect Michigan conducted a study regarding the level of broadband technology required to provide a high-speed, broader bandwidth connection to the internet. That study provided a starting point for bringing Harbor Country into the forefront of accessibility to the latest technology. These efforts were reignited in 2018 when a Harbor Country Broadband Committee was formed to identify the most underserved areas (those homes receiving less than a max speed of 10 Mbps). This work continues today.

As with most economic development issues facing Harbor Country, there is a pressing need for collaboration across the communities to make the latest broadband technology a reality. By working together, these communities would achieve economies of scale, thereby making investment more attractive to private internet providers. In that connection, The Pokagon Fund has been committed to support cross-community cooperation, both administratively and financially.

BROADBAND

Businesses, educational facilities, residents, the agricultural industry and health care providers require access to high-speed internet and cell phone service to support operations, jobs and personal needs. Unfortunately, Harbor Country has not kept pace in this critical area.

In 2013, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in collaboration with Connect Michigan conducted a study regarding the level of broadband technology required to provide a high-speed, broader bandwidth connection to the internet. That study provided a starting point for bringing Harbor Country into the forefront of accessibility to the latest technology. These efforts were reignited in 2018 when a Harbor Country Broadband Committee was formed to identify the most underserved areas (those homes receiving less than a max speed of 10 Mbps). This work continues today.

As with most economic development issues facing Harbor Country, there is a pressing need for collaboration across the communities to make the latest broadband technology a reality. By working together, these communities would achieve economies of scale, thereby making investment more attractive to private internet providers. In that connection, The Pokagon Fund has been committed to support cross-community cooperation, both administratively and financially.

COMMUNITY CENTER

Although Harbor Country provides many recreational opportunities for visitors, the lack of a Community Center capable of serving full and part-time residents with a year-round facility for recreation represents a serious deficiency that needs to be addressed.

For the past two years, The Pokagon Fund has been in dialogue with potential funders, sport enthusiasts and municipal leaders who have been interacting with area churches, YMCA officials, the United Way, Tri-County Head Start and others to plan for a facility that could provide child care, exercise rooms, recreational leagues, access to social service agencies and function as a community gathering place.

The realization of a single facility Community Center is within reach if our local residents feel it will benefit our community and are willing to actively invest in its creation. The Pokagon Fund will be there to support community-wide efforts to make it happen.

COMMUNITY CENTER

Although Harbor Country provides many recreational opportunities for visitors, the lack of a Community Center capable of serving full and part-time residents with a year-round facility for recreation represents a serious deficiency that needs to be addressed.

For the past two years, The Pokagon Fund has been in dialogue with potential funders, sport enthusiasts and municipal leaders who have been interacting with area churches, YMCA officials, the United Way, Tri-County Head Start and others to plan for a facility that could provide child care, exercise rooms, recreational leagues, access to social service agencies and function as a community gathering place.

The realization of a single facility Community Center is within reach if our local residents feel it will benefit our community and are willing to actively invest in its creation. The Pokagon Fund will be there to support community-wide efforts to make it happen.

CROSS MUNICIPAL COOPERATION

One of the major successes of The Pokagon Fund’s support for cooperation between municipalities has been the formation of a cross-municipality "best practices" committee. The result has been to have local communities share ideas in areas of common interest and concern.

This committee has begun regular meetings to identify basic issues that must be confronted to improve local economies, including the culture gap that exists between the traditional agricultural community and seasonal residents, the role to be played by municipalities in furthering broadband technology, affordable housing and job creation. Importantly, the Harbor Country communities have included the City of Bridgman and Lake Charter Township in these collaborative efforts.

CROSS MUNICIPAL COOPERATION

One of the major successes of The Pokagon Fund’s support for cooperation between municipalities has been the formation of a cross-municipality "best practices" committee. The result has been to have local communities share ideas in areas of common interest and concern.

This committee has begun regular meetings to identify basic issues that must be confronted to improve local economies, including the culture gap that exists between the traditional agricultural community and seasonal residents, the role to be played by municipalities in furthering broadband technology, affordable housing and job creation. Importantly, the Harbor Country communities have included the City of Bridgman and Lake Charter Township in these collaborative efforts.

COMMUNITY VITALITY

One of the largest projects ever supported by The Pokagon Fund was completed in Spring 2018, when the City of New Buffalo’s North Whittaker Street Project celebrated the opening of its renovated downtown. Reconstructed streets, comprehensive landscaping, historical signs and the Enduring Spirit sculpture honoring the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi provided an impressive facelift.

Significantly, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Pokagon Band’s Language and Culture Director Marcus Winchester recounted the Band’s successful effort to remain in this area despite the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that mandated all Native Americans living east of the Mississippi be relocated west of the Mississippi.

Winchester recollected the Pokagon Band’s commitment to stay on their homeland by incorporating aspects of American culture into their villages. “That is the legacy of our community, the ability to adapt and our ability to blend cultures together. That is a legacy that we have continued to this day by partnering with New Buffalo.”

COMMUNITY VITALITY

One of the largest projects ever supported by The Pokagon Fund was completed in Spring 2018, when the City of New Buffalo’s North Whittaker Street Project celebrated the opening of its renovated downtown. Reconstructed streets, comprehensive landscaping, historical signs and the Enduring Spirit sculpture honoring the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi provided an impressive facelift.

Significantly, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Pokagon Band’s Language and Culture Director Marcus Winchester recounted the Band’s successful effort to remain in this area despite the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that mandated all Native Americans living east of the Mississippi be relocated west of the Mississippi.

Winchester recollected the Pokagon Band’s commitment to stay on their homeland by incorporating aspects of American culture into their villages. “That is the legacy of our community, the ability to adapt and our ability to blend cultures together. That is a legacy that we have continued to this day by partnering with New Buffalo.”

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Recognizing that Harbor Country did not have a program in place to connect its residents with the social services available in Berrien County, The Pokagon Fund partnered first with the Church of the Mediator and then with Harbert Community Church in 2018 to fund the Neighbor by Neighbor program. A full-time staff person is now available to direct persons in need to government agencies, churches and charities that provide food, housing, child care, transportation, clothing and legal assistance.

Thanks to this program, Harbor Country residents facing eviction, homelessness, age-related challenges, utility cut-offs, repair needs and substance abuse issues now have a formal resource and referral service.

Additionally, support by The Pokagon Fund for the renovation of the River Valley Senior Center has given the senior community a modern facility that can provide expanded programming. Our youth has also been served by a Pokagon Fund grant to Girls on the Run, a program that teaches life skills to Middle School girls, Toys for Tots, a program that provides gifts to children at holiday time, and through significant improvements to the Patrick Elementary School playground in Dowagiac.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Recognizing that Harbor Country did not have a program in place to connect its residents with the social services available in Berrien County, The Pokagon Fund partnered first with the Church of the Mediator and then with Harbert Community Church in 2018 to fund the Neighbor by Neighbor program. A full-time staff person is now available to direct persons in need to government agencies, churches and charities that provide food, housing, child care, transportation, clothing and legal assistance.

Thanks to this program, Harbor Country residents facing eviction, homelessness, age-related challenges, utility cut-offs, repair needs and substance abuse issues now have a formal resource and referral service.

Additionally, support by The Pokagon Fund for the renovation of the River Valley Senior Center has given the senior community a modern facility that can provide expanded programming. Our youth has also been served by a Pokagon Fund grant to Girls on the Run, a program that teaches life skills to Middle School girls, Toys for Tots, a program that provides gifts to children at holiday time, and through significant improvements to the Patrick Elementary School playground in Dowagiac.

LITERACY INITIATIVE

It is a basic principle of educators that children must “learn to read” by the third grade because starting in fourth grade, and for the rest of their lives, children “read to learn”. If students score below proficient as early as fourth grade, the likelihood is that their education will be stunted. Significantly, in recognition of the singular importance of this issue, promoting third grade literacy was a major goal of the Michigan Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder in 2018.

The Pokagon Fund has worked aggressively to deal with this pressing education issue. In 2018, the Fund partnered with Education Trust-Midwest, the River Valley School District and the New Buffalo Area Schools to provide Harbor Country educators with a series of three literacy workshops. Participants were inspired to build knowledge around best practices in early literacy and strategies for improving practices in their own school or district.

Closely tied to that effort was the Fund’s award of grants to support: the Kids Read Now Program at the River Valley School District Summer Camp; classroom libraries for Hartford Schools; guided readers for Dowagiac elementary students; and Free Little Libraries throughout the City of Dowagiac.

LITERACY INITIATIVE

It is a basic principle of educators that children must “learn to read” by the third grade because starting in fourth grade, and for the rest of their lives, children “read to learn”. If students score below proficient as early as fourth grade, the likelihood is that their education will be stunted. Significantly, in recognition of the singular importance of this issue, promoting third grade literacy was a major goal of the Michigan Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder in 2018.

The Pokagon Fund has worked aggressively to deal with this pressing education issue. In 2018, the Fund partnered with Education Trust-Midwest, the River Valley School District and the New Buffalo Area Schools to provide Harbor Country educators with a series of three literacy workshops. Participants were inspired to build knowledge around best practices in early literacy and strategies for improving practices in their own school or district.

Closely tied to that effort was the Fund’s award of grants to support: the Kids Read Now Program at the River Valley School District Summer Camp; classroom libraries for Hartford Schools; guided readers for Dowagiac elementary students; and Free Little Libraries throughout the City of Dowagiac.

CULTURAL ENRICHMENT

With over $1,000,000 contributed to projects that promote cultural enrichment over The Pokagon Fund’s first decade, the Fund continued in 2018 its support of projects that enhance the quality of life in Harbor Country. Prominent among these efforts were field trips provided to area students to colleges and universities, the Potawatomi Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, Michigan History Center, Art Institute of Chicago and the State Capitol in Lansing.

In addition, the Coastline Children’s Film Festival was granted funding in 2018 to provide youth and adults alike with ten days of classic and silent films, documentaries and shorts. A Young Filmmaker’s Competition offered Harbor Country youth the opportunity to test their skill in creating a silent film. Lastly, the tradition of support continued for the July 4th LaPorte Symphony Concert and the Christmas performance of The Nutcracker by Southold Dance Theater.

CULTURAL ENRICHMENT

With over $1,000,000 contributed to projects that promote cultural enrichment over The Pokagon Fund’s first decade, the Fund continued in 2018 its support of projects that enhance the quality of life in Harbor Country. Prominent among these efforts were field trips provided to area students to colleges and universities, the Potawatomi Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, Michigan History Center, Art Institute of Chicago and the State Capitol in Lansing.

In addition, the Coastline Children’s Film Festival was granted funding in 2018 to provide youth and adults alike with ten days of classic and silent films, documentaries and shorts. A Young Filmmaker’s Competition offered Harbor Country youth the opportunity to test their skill in creating a silent film. Lastly, the tradition of support continued for the July 4th LaPorte Symphony Concert and the Christmas performance of The Nutcracker by Southold Dance Theater.

MARQUETTE GREENWAY

The Pokagon Fund pledged $300,000 in 2018 to support development of the Marquette Greenway, a 58-mile continuous non-motorized trail that will allow bicyclists to travel safely from Chicago’s Calumet Park to New Buffalo.

Realization of the trail will require additional financial support in the form of local matches that are expected to come from various sources such as the Michigan Department of Transportation, municipal contributions and individual donations. Spearheaded by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the project is supported by the Marquette Greenway Community Committee and hundreds of volunteers throughout Berrien County.

MARQUETTE GREENWAY

The Pokagon Fund pledged $300,000 in 2018 to support development of the Marquette Greenway, a 58-mile continuous non-motorized trail that will allow bicyclists to travel safely from Chicago’s Calumet Park to New Buffalo.

Realization of the trail will require additional financial support in the form of local matches that are expected to come from various sources such as the Michigan Department of Transportation, municipal contributions and individual donations. Spearheaded by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the project is supported by the Marquette Greenway Community Committee and hundreds of volunteers throughout Berrien County.

IN MEMORIAM

Heather Nash, Principal, Patrick Hamilton Elementary
1973-2018

Heather Nash, who served for ten years as Principal of the Patrick Hamilton Elementary School in Dowagiac, had a dream to make the once-dilapidated playground at the school not only a gathering place for her students, but also a safe space for outdoor play for all Dowagiac children. She enlisted volunteers through the Parent-Teacher Organization to create a school playground that would be conducive to social interaction, fine and gross motor activities and imaginative/creative play.

To that end, Heather was awarded two grants from The Pokagon Fund totaling $63,000. In the midst of completing the playground renovation, Heather unexpectedly passed away in December 2018. Described by many as a great lady adored by her students, Heather was known for being joyful, for laughing in the hallways and having a bubbly personality that lit up every room she entered.

Heather also spearheaded a local collaboration between Dowagiac Union Schools, the City of Dowagiac, Cass County Council on Aging and the Dowagiac Public Library to expand the Free Little Public Library Program throughout Dowagiac due to a $10,000 grant from The Pokagon Fund.

The Pokagon Fund fondly remembers Heather for her good works and for the example she set as a project sponsor and community leader who envisioned an outreach beyond her school to the entire community she served.

IN MEMORIAM OF HEATHER NASH

Heather Nash, Principal, Patrick Hamilton Elementary
1973-2018

Heather Nash, who served for ten years as Principal of the Patrick Hamilton Elementary School in Dowagiac, had a dream to make the once-dilapidated playground at the school not only a gathering place for her students, but also a safe space for outdoor play for all Dowagiac children. She enlisted volunteers through the Parent-Teacher Organization to create a school playground that would be conducive to social interaction, fine and gross motor activities and imaginative/creative play.

To that end, Heather was awarded two grants from The Pokagon Fund totaling $63,000. In the midst of completing the playground renovation, Heather unexpectedly passed away in December 2018. Described by many as a great lady adored by her students, Heather was known for being joyful, for laughing in the hallways and having a bubbly personality that lit up every room she entered.

Heather also spearheaded a local collaboration between Dowagiac Union Schools, the City of Dowagiac, Cass County Council on Aging and the Dowagiac Public Library to expand the Free Little Public Library Program throughout Dowagiac due to a $10,000 grant from The Pokagon Fund.

The Pokagon Fund fondly remembers Heather for her good works and for the example she set as a project sponsor and community leader who envisioned an outreach beyond her school to the entire community she served.

For more information on The Pokagon Fund visit pokagonfund.org