Strong Partners Work Together Through Challenging Times


Nick Goergen (Urban Tree Specialists) teaches spring 2020 Green Guard Stewardship Training participants how to properly trim a tree in the 14 acres of forest at East High School. Photo Credit: Sarah Dunne Pickrell.

The Shumaker Family Foundation supports local social justice, environmental justice, and education initiatives. For the past two years, they have been a valuable partner for Heartland Conservation Alliance's (HCA) Green Guard Stewardship Training Program at East High School. Because of the Foundation’s direct support, HCA has trained nearly 200 student and community participants in the Green Guard program and celebrated 56 graduating stewards. HCA has been able to engage East High School staff and administration in new and lasting ways to support conservation and stewardship of the 14-acre forest patch adjacent to the school as well as create pathways for students to explore and pursue career opportunities in conservation and environmentalism.

“We have really enjoyed being able to work closely with the Foundation staff and Board to create the most successful program we can,” said Jill Erickson, Heartland Conservation Alliance Executive Director. “When you have a relationship with funders and they are directly involved with the work, the results are just better.” We are all experiencing difficulties and new challenges through the COVID-19 crisis. Many nonprofits are navigating this new territory and figuring out ways to work remotely, reorganize events, and continue their important work. As a largely grant-funded organization, Heartland Conservation Alliance staff has been connecting with funders to determine next steps which is difficult because we know so little about the coming weeks and months. It was a great relief when one of our funders, the Shumaker Family Foundation, generously responded to this crisis by asking, “but how can we support you?”

The COVID-19 crisis has closed schools and prevented public events preventing us from continuing with our spring Green Guard program as planned. The support from the Shumaker Family Foundation has been an enormous blessing through this uncertain time. Executive Director, Laura Curry Sloan, along with the Foundation Board have reached out to offer encouragement, deadline extensions, and continue their financial support as we discover ways to adapt and continue this work. “We understand that nonprofit organizations are under enormous pressure right now,” said Laura. “We are working quickly to listen and understand their needs and try to figure out how we can be most helpful. These are stressful times, and we need to work together.” Although none of us knows exactly what lies ahead, we are grateful for partners like the Shumaker Family Foundation who are willing to listen to our challenges and trust us as we make unprecedented decisions. We look forward to a continued partnership in the year ahead. You can learn more about the Green Guard Stewardship Training program here and the Shumaker Family Foundation here.

Fall 2019 Green Guard Steward Training participants from East High School learning about watersheds and wetlands on a field trip to the Blue River. Photo Credit: Sarah Dunne Pickrell.

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