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Earth Day a natural time to review grantmaking

The late Former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator, Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day.

By David Horst environmental grant manager

It’s Earth Day today, and it might surprise you to learn this celebration of nature and stewardship of the Earth is well into middle age.

This is the 49th Earth Day. As Wisconsinites, we can claim ownership in a way, because our former governor and U.S. senator, Gaylord Nelson, founded the day.

I remember the first Earth Day. I helped to organize a litter cleanup with my grade school classmates along Lincoln Creek Parkway in Milwaukee – the “crick” as we called it.

Here at the Community Foundation, it’s a day to look back at what our caring and generous donors have done to help the Earth and make people more engaged with nature.

Since last Earth Day, more than $230,000 in grants were awarded to environmental causes or organizations through our Environmental Stewardship Fund and Bright Idea Fund. That doesn’t include support from individual donors’ funds.

The Environmental Stewardship Fund was created in 2007, when 54 founding donors each gave at least $1,000 to create an endowment that would produce grants for environmental projects. The Foundation’s Board added $50,000.

Richard Louv

In 2012, environmental sustainability became one of five “focus areas” for our discretionary grantmaking, now known as the Bright Idea Fund.

Grants from the Bright Idea Fund supported these environmental sustainability projects.

  • Fox Cities Environmental Learning Campus/Bubolz Nature Preserve, $75,000 to help implement a new education program geared toward area middle and high school students, with a focus on alternative energy using Faith Technologies’ microgrid installation, including solar, hydrolysis, a natural gas turbine and wind. The fund also made possible multiple appearances by Richard Louv, author of the best-seller Last Child in the Woods, at the grand opening for the new nature center building last Earth Day.
  • Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, $70,000 to pilot Farm Link, a unique initiative which streamlines local, sustainably grown produce into food pantries, increasing access to healthy food for under-served populations and strengthening our local food system.
  • City of Menasha, $9,949 to extend the Paper Trail through Province Terrace to Nature’s Way, including a gap that posed a hazardous crossing at U.S. 10 and State 114.
  • Fox Cities Greenways, $6,240 to add bicycle-powered rickshaws to the Making the Ride Happen program, which coordinates vehicle transportation options for non-driving seniors. Partners include Lutheran Social Services, Volunteer Fox Cities and the Wisconsin Bike Federation.

Gibson Island

These grants were awarded from the Environmental Stewardship Fund since Earth Day 2018:

  • College of Menominee Nation, Shawano County, kids’ activities at their Earth Day celebration.
  • Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, Menasha, $4,000 for its “Pond with a Purpose” teaching exhibit. A grant from the Bright Idea Fund added $1,000.
  • Village of Kimberly, $5,000 for native plantings and signage along its extension of the Fox River Trail.
  • Fox Cities Greenways, $500 for costs associated with the “Safe Routes to Parks” workshop.
  • Weyauwega-Fremont School District, $2,500 for equipment for its aquaculture lab.
  • Town of Bel Plaine, $2,500 for removal of invasive species at Gibson Island in Waupaca County.
  • Friends of Hartman Creek, $2,500 for an educational kiosk highlighting the area’s natural resources, to be built at the popular kayak and canoe launching area at Knight Lake landing.
  • Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers, $188 to rent the Warch Center Cinema at Lawrence University for the 2019 World Tour Paddling Film Festival.
  • The International Association for Society and Natural Resources, $2,500 for the Menominee Nation’s workshop on sustainable forestry and other production as part of the upcoming 2019 Symposium on Society and Natural Resources, June 2-7, at UW-Oshkosh.

The Environmental Stewardship Fund was established in 2003 to support local projects that help people preserve, enjoy or understand nature better, by furthering the preservation or protection of nature, enhancing the enjoyment of nature and improving public knowledge and awareness of the natural world.


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