The following piece is published in this month’s Put-in-Bay Gazette. The Gazette has been producing incredible independent Put-in-Bay island news for over 40 years. If you have any interest at all in what is happening on South Bass Island, we urge you strongly to subscribe to the Put-in-Bay Gazette. One-year online subscriptions are only $15, and print subscriptions are available as well. To subscribe please click here.

By Peter Huston

Over the years Put-in-Bay has done an amazing job of funding various scholarships, civic efforts, and countless fundraisers for our community members in need. Individuals have stepped up and run bake sales, raffles, auctions and dinners for causes that they believe in. Islanders are generous to a fault supporting these causes again and again. Now more than ever all these efforts shine brightly and show us what an island community can do on its own. Let’s take a brief moment to reflect on how fortunate we truly are.

It’s time now to take this idea to a higher level. The past few years we have heard the repeated mantra “if only we had” a way to have better island signage, to do a economic growth impact study, buy needed technology for our police department, have a place for visiting medical specialists to have office hours, find a way to have affordable housing for working families, and the list goes on.

Much of what we need can be solved or at least moved further ahead by keeping the decision making for these requests on the island. Other islands have looked at similar issues and come to the same conclusion. I have that it is an imperative for the Bass Islands to set up an island based foundation that can help make a difference locally.

This could be real problem solving at the local level. Not county or city funding organizations with limited understanding of how islands work, especially when we have little or no representation. Now is the time for a locally based funding organization, an island foundation with a board of trustees that lives, shops and works locally. This is an organization that provides a way for our island families, friends and seasonal residents to do good forever – locally.

Last year on our trip to Mackinac Island for the Great Lakes Island Alliance, we sat in on a special session about alternative ways to fund the crucial needs of an island.  This session was hosted by the Mackinac Island Community Foundation. The session was extremely insightful and provided us with many thoughtful ideas. Of course, this year we were to host the GLIA conference, but that never worked out due to COVID- 19. (But we will do it next year in October!)

Now we have some time to think about this and perhaps move it forward. I recently spoke with Executive Director Stefanie McGreevy of the Mackinac Island Community Foundation about some of their innovative projects, including a locally based COVID relief fund, and about how we could make these type of ideas work here.

What’s the next step? It only takes a small group of interested island folks and about 20K to get this process rolling. It’s not an overnight solution, it’s a long-term island based group working together to solve local problems from our own island perspective. It’s that extra 10% that makes the process work.

So I ask you now, can you spare a million? I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but if you had a chance to set aside some small amount to be part of starting an island foundation would you? Would you be interested in helping set this kind of venture up, to be on the board? I know there are people among us that are looking for a way to be part of this community in a meaningful way. This is that opportunity. Let’s get this started.


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