The People Fund grant gives back to community

BOYNE CITY — The Great Lakes Energy People Fund is accepting grant applications from nonprofit organizations throughout its local service areas. This region includes applicants from organizations located in Mecosta, Lake, Osceola, Newaygo and Manistee counties.

“We want to get this information out there because a lot of nonprofit organizations are small and volunteer-run,” said Shari Culver, vice president of communications and marketing at GLE. “They want to apply for grants but don’t necessarily know what’s out there.”

Great Lakes Energy is a member-owned power company that currently serves 26 counties in western and northern Michigan. Three times a year, the company awards grants to local nonprofit organizations, as well as groups that have specific humanitarian, educational and community development purposes.

The grant application deadline is June 1.

The grants are funded completely by GLE members who allow the electric cooperative to round up their bill each month to the next dollar. The average donation per month is 50 cents.

The company awards grants to local nonprofit groups in its three service regions: north, south and central, which stretches from Kalamazoo up to the Mackinac Straits. Typically, depending on GLE members’ donations, grants awarded throughout these regions total anywhere from $130,000 to $145,000.

“(About) 900 electric co-ops nationwide have similar programs,” Culver said. “The People Fund started as a way to give back to the community.”

Organizations that are eligible to receive grants are selected by a volunteer board of directors. GLE will not fund continuing school projects or normal operating expenses at established programs such as fundraising campaigns and loans.

“We look for grants that fulfill our mission, which is to enhance the community by giving back to it,” Culver said. “Some organizations have funding priorities such as education. We’re looking to fund a range of areas such as the arts, health and sciences and education, for example.”

Depending on how many organizations are chosen, the amounts average from $2,000 to $5,000 per grant. In 2013, awards ranged from $450 spent purchasing a scanner to digitize local history materials at the Hesperia Community Library of Newaygo and Oceana counties to $20,000 for a multi-purpose community center to be built at the Big Jackson Public School in Paris.

Grants are typically awarded six weeks after the deadline.

“We’re looking to fund projects that will take place in a short time from the award date,” Culver said. “That way we can put more money into the community rather than it not being used immediately.”

The People Fund has been successful due to its members’ generosity, but Culver noted that support has been declining in recent years.

“The average donation is about 50 cents a month,” Culver said. “It’s the most good someone can do for the least amount of money because when that money pools together, we really have a lot to give back to the community. We encourage everyone to sign up.”

For more information, visit