The Great Lakes Environmental Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan helped to support the Skiff and Schooner program on the Detroit River. The program lets students from throughout metro Detroit experience the river from the decks of a tall ship while learning about the environmental and cultural heritage of their communities.
More than a quarter century after it was established, grants from the Great Lakes Environmental Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan continue to support clean air and water, environmental education, public spaces and community engagement throughout our region.
The fund was born out of the Great Lakes Community Foundation Environmental Collaborative, a two-year program that convened communities around environmental issues. The collaborative engaged the Community Foundation and 20 other foundations throughout the Great Lakes Basin. The international effort spanned six Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario.
It was an important program for the Community Foundation, as four of the foundation’s seven counties — Macomb, St. Clair, Wayne and Monroe — border the Great Lakes.
Participating foundations focused on issues such as urban sprawl and transportation, land use, waste management, and air and water quality. Each foundation raised an environmental endowment fund to support its region, with matching funds coming from the Great Lakes Protection Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
As a result, the Great Lakes Environmental Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan was established in 1997 with $75,000 in initial gifts. The fund supports programs and projects such as expanding public parks, developing school curricula for young people, and investing in community gardens to help address flooding while beautifying neighborhoods.
Over the years, money from this modest fund has been pooled with money from other environment-focused funds at the Community Foundation to make a significant impact. Examples of recent grants that have been supported, in part, by the Great Lakes Environmental Endowment Fund include:
- A grant to American Forests to analyze the costs and benefits of planting 15,000 trees per year in Detroit, particularly in neighborhoods with a history of disinvestment.
- A grant to the Skiff and Schooner program, piloted by the University of Michigan’s Detroit River Story Lab in partnership with Detroit’s Green Door Initiative. The program lets school-age students from throughout metro Detroit experience the river from the decks of a tall ship while learning about the environmental and cultural heritage of their communities.
These recent grants from the Great Lakes Environmental Endowment Fund, established more than a quarter-century ago, speak to the enduring power of endowed funds at the Community Foundation to create permanent, positive change and improve the quality of life throughout our region.