Community Foundation Grows Giving

July 30, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has announced a $75,000 grant to provide 75 well established “legacy trees” to Millennium Park.

Representing 45 different species, the foundation says the Legacy Trees will serve as a living tribute to the foundation’s 4,000 donors who have supported some 7,369 grants — ranging from $1 to $20 million — since the organization’s founding in 1922.

Eight decades later, the Community Foundation says it continues its mission to build and manage the community’s permanent endowment while leading the community to strengthen the lives of its people. Initiatives range from protecting children to enriching education to improving neighborhoods and serving seniors.

“Philanthropy isn’t just about giving away money; it’s about directing a community into the future,’’ said Diana Sieger, foundation president.

“The generosity of generations both past and present has allowed us to invest $75 million in this community. The trees at Millennium Park represent a perfect, living symbol of those gifts.”

She said the 12- to 16-foot trees will offer beauty and shade for visitors and sanctuary for wildlife at the 1,500-acre park. The first phase is scheduled to open next month. When complete, Millennium Park will be one of the nation’s largest urban parks, eclipsing New York’s Central Park in size.

The Community Foundation advises that it was one of the first financial supporters of Millennium Park, when the ambitious project was little more than a pipe dream.

But before a penny is ever awarded to any project, the foundation stresses that it conducts extensive research into the merits of each grant request, maintaining a long-standing tradition of sound stewardship.

The unsolicited $75,000 grant to Millennium Park came from the Charles Evenson Fund for the Environment, established with $3.2 million in 1988 to help protect and preserve the lands and waters of Michigan. An earlier grant for $500,000 from the same fund supported the general costs of developing the park.

The $75,000 grant is being used to purchase, plant and maintain 75 “legacy trees,’’ which now grace the entrance and grounds of Millennium Park.

Because the trees are relatively mature, the foundation said that they will produce an immediate impact, while offering beauty, shade and enjoyment to visitors for generations.

When complete, the park and its facilities will touch four cities: Grandville, Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Walker.

“We’re honored that the Community Foundation chose to commemorate this milestone in such a visual, tangible and beneficial way,” said Roger Sabine, Kent County’s director of parks. “And we’re grateful. Without this grant, visitors would be welcomed by small seedlings instead of robust trees. Because of this grant, children won’t have to wait until they’re grown to sit in the shade of Millennium Park’s trees.”

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