A gift through the woods

Shrine of the Pines receives $10,000 grant to improve facility

BALDWIN — Those who visit the Shrine of the Pines this season are likely to notice maintained activities, fee rates and a few upgrades on the grounds thanks to a $10,000 grant recently awarded to the rustic furniture museum. The museum was awarded a $10,000 grant from the DTE Energy Foundation, the charitable arm of the electric and gas company. The money will go toward making sure seasonal events can be held at the museum, allowing active duty members of the military to enter free of charge, continuing to offer reduce fees for children and to construct two paved pathways to minimize the chance of tripping over tree roots. “(The Shine of the Pines is) small, and for (the DTE Energy Foundation) to think that much of us that they are willing to give us $10,000, I think that is wonderful,” said Bill Downey, president of the Shrine of the Pines board. The process to receiving the grant started last year. As a member of the Shrine of the Pines board, Lake County Commissioner Sandy Clarke began searching for grants that could help improve the museum’s grounds for its current visitors and to attract more. Clarke applied for the grant in October, and in January Roger Royer, regional manager for DTE Energy, visited the Shrine of the Pines. While visiting, Royer helped identify things that could be worked on with the help of the grant. One area that could be improved, Royer said, were the entrance pathways. “We are going to pave the pathway from the Shrine to the gift shop and from the parking lot to the gift shop because it is really a menace,” Downey said. “We worry about it. We warn all our people to be very careful because it’s pines, they grow along the top (of the pathway) and then it becomes very tricky to walk. That will eliminate that and make it safe for everybody.” Downey has bids out for the construction of the pathways and would like to see them completed during this visiting season. The DTE Energy Foundation contributes $9 to $11 million a year to similar projects in Michigan, Royer said. In the past, it has supported events in Idlewild. The foundation’s funds are accumulated by contributions made by stockholders. In the past few years, the foundation has been focusing on supporting human needs issues, Royer said, because many of the communities the company serves are suffering economically. The foundation has been supporting agencies that provide services to people in need, Royer added. With that in mind, the foundation saw the Shrine of the Pines as serving residents of Baldwin and Lake County, as well as bringing in visitors to support the area economically. “It’s incumbent upon us, as it is with other companies — banks and the like — to support cultural and historical things in those communities to differentiate them from the next one down the road,” Royer said. “It’s museums like the Shrine that make Baldwin different form the next city down the street.” Being awarded grants like the one from the DTE Energy Foundation is important to the Shrine of the Pines because what money the museum makes is used to keep it running, Downey said. Although the board might like to make improvements, it isn’t economically feasible with the museum’s budget. Grants are what help the museum survive, Downey added. Royer said he enjoyed working with the Shrine of the Pines board and hopes the foundation’s investment will encourage others in the area to support the museum. The museum also plans to work on its marketing, Clarke said. The museum board hopes to draw visitors from around the state and neighboring states and Canada. The board also plans to continue to look at other grants and funding sources to keep improving the museum. “As a commissioner, I am excited about the fact that — knowing this is not a region that typical receives funding form the DTE Energy Foundation — it’s exciting to know they see what we all see in this community, in terms of families and this being vibrant and the culture of the Shrine of the Pines and what it offers to those who visit.” The Shrine of the Pines is located at 8962 S. M-37 in Baldwin. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1:30 to 6 p.m. on Sundays with the last tour starting at 5:30 p.m. Special rates for students, families and seniors are available, and so is a picnic area. For more information on the museum, search “Shrine of the Pines” on Facebook.