History of The Pokagon Fund
The Pokagon Fund has its roots in an agreement made on March 13, 2000 (as amended), between the City of New Buffalo, New Buffalo Township, and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. This agreement called for the establishment of a nonprofit entity to receive and distribute a percentage of the net win from certain games at the Four Winds Casino Resort – New Buffalo, which is owned by the Pokagon Band.
The Fund is governed by a seven-member board. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Tribal Council appoints two directors, New Buffalo Township appoints one, the City of New Buffalo appoints one; the three remaining directors are jointly selected by the four appointed directors. This model is unique – we know of no other private foundation in the United States whose board is comprised of community members, local government leaders, and members appointed by a Tribal Council, deriving its revenue from casino profits, and making grants that enhance the lives of residents of select communities.
Ninety percent of the Fund’s distributions are made in the form of grants and scholarships to benefit the Michigan communities and residents of the City of New Buffalo; the Townships of Chikaming, New Buffalo, or Three Oaks; the Villages of Grand Beach, Michiana, or Three Oaks; or the school districts of River Valley School District or New Buffalo Area Schools. Individuals must live in one of the three townships or city listed in order listed to be eligible to receive a scholarship from TPF. The remaining ten percent of the Fund’s distributions are made in the form of grants to benefit the communities of Hartford, Michigan; Dowagiac, Michigan; or South Bend, Indiana.
The Fund hired its first executive director in July 2007. The world-class Four Winds Casino Resort – New Buffalo facility opened at noon on Aug. 2, 2007. Since November 2007, the Fund has awarded grants to support local government programs and other programs benefitting seniors, children and schools; student scholarships; compulsive treatment programs (including, but not limited to, gambling programs); land preservation and acquisition; and local economic development projects. The first round of philanthropy included awards of $5,000 each to five grantees: Harbor Country Emergency Food Pantry, the Irish Connection, New Buffalo Service League, Senior Nutrition Services and Toys for Tots for the organizations’ holiday services.
Ever since 2007, the Fund has strived to honor the generosity of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and the ingenuity of all its founders by building up the communities it was created to benefit, and the people in them, through smart, meaningful, and impactful grantmaking.