Cass County Youth Council’s Flame Keeper Award honors a person or organization whose work significantly impacts children and families. Founded almost 20 years ago, McLoughlin Family Foundation’s main goal was bolstering local charities that fall outside the reach of larger national organizations.
McLoughlin’s signature event, the Great Start program, allows children from Dowagiac and Cassopolis elementary schools to spend $200 each on back-to-school clothes, shoes, backpacks and books during a private Target shopping spree. The first Great Start in 2007 invited 100 youngsters. The 11th Great Start last August invited 179.
The foundation’s charitable acts also benefit older students with $50,000 to Southwestern Michigan College’s new Nursing and Health Education Building — enough to fund an entire classroom.
Emily and Beth McLoughlin recently attended Youth Council’s annual luncheon at SMC to accept the second annual Flame Keeper from Council President Sarah Mathews before an audience that included Judge Susan Dobrich, the first recipient in 2017.
The foundation has also supported Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass County and the Strengthening Families program; Department of Health and Human Services’ children’s Christmas parties; Operation Good Cheer for Cass County foster care children in December 2017; and private tutoring, laptops, summer camp and extra-curricular activities such as sports for foster children in Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) not covered by DHS, Medicaid or any other resources.
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ support of more than seven years increased in the past two years, making it possible to support 10 matches with adult mentors.
“To be sure, the McLoughlin Family Foundation has truly impacted the lives of children in our community to make sure they have a healthy future and a strong community to support them,” according to a framed legislative tribute signed by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, state Sen. John Proos and state Reps. Aaron Miller and Dave Pagel.
The foundation has also provided financial support for Fort St. Joseph, the Council on Aging’s Meals-on-Wheels program and the Underground Railroad Society’s Bonine house restoration to insure indirectly that the community children live in continues to thrive.
“We hope that by recognizing Flame Keepers the recipients will learn how much their support is appreciated and inspire others to follow in their footsteps so the light shined on the need for dedication to preventing child abuse and neglect will never burn out,” Mathews said.