2011 Recipients

The Mark of Distinction Program from 2008 through 2011 gave away two $25,000 grants every year to two organizations dedicated to making a positive difference in their communities. Each year the Markham Team selected the top ten finalists and the public voted on them to select the two winners.  Here you can read all about each of our past winners.

2011 Recipients

East Side Heart & Home
Linda Mertz
Saint Louis, MO

East Saint Louis is a forgotten American city devoid of jobs, new opportunities and decent, affordable housing for low-income families.  Statistics show the urban blight and social, economic and educational programs.  In the Olivette neighborhood, an area of approximately 70 blocks, there are many unoccupied, boarded-up structures left derelict, and havens for illegal activities that are also dangerous to the neighborhood.  East Side Heart & Home is making a positive impact and bringing hope to the community by developing a model for low-income families to become homeowners.
Home ownership brings with it a host of positive behaviors, including: community awareness; enabling families to move away from poverty; as well as benefits to the community and growing the neighborhood through the building of one home at a time.
East Side Heart & Home has built 17 homes so far, with 11 being purchased, making the families new homeowners.  The goal of this program are to build one new home annually, provide home ownership and budget instruction and counseling, provide home management/maintenance training through the establishment of credit and equity for families, and to continue to support and provide positive change in stabilization and neighborhood growth.
The results of the efforts of East Side Heart & Home are: families live in and purchase new homes for the first time, increasing their self-esteem; there is development of pride in the community and a feeling of security in a safe neighborhood; and revitalization through individuals working together to maintain positive change.

Operation: Connect Kids to the Outdoors
Ford Church
Denver, CO

Operation: Connect Kids to the Outdoors is a program run by The Cottonwood Institute (CI), an award-winning, educational, non-profit organization based in Denver, Colorado.  CI is on a mission to connect diverse public school students to the outdoors and empower them to take action to improve their schools, the community and the environment for future generations.  CI believes that students can't be expected to care about the environment if they never have a chance to explore the outdoors.  Ci collaborates with schools and community organizations to deliver high quality, high impact environmental education and service-learning programs that are designed to strengthen leadership skills, civic engagement and environmental stewardship.
Funding from the Markham Mark of Distinction grant will support the following three core programs:
1) Operation: Military Kids Essential Survival Skills Project offers four weekend camping trips during our 2011-2012 programming season for military families in Colorado.  Our military families have given so much to our country and it is our turn to help these American heroes by providing a fun opportunity for their families to get out of the house and into the outdoors to practice survival skills, leadership skills and to help complete environmental service projects to give back to the land.
2) West Denver Preparatory Charter Schools offers four 6-week programs during the 2011-2012 school year that provide the opportunity for students to learn important life skills.
3) Community Adventure Program is a collaboration with New Vista High School, an alternative public school in Boulder, CO, offering four 10-week Community Adventure Program (CAP) classes during the 2011-2012 school year.  During this class, students go on hikes, overnight camping trips, learn about and discuss local environmental issues, choose an issue to address as a class and collaborate with other local organizations to design and implement a student-directed Action Project to positively address their issue.
Cottonwood Institute's Operation: Connect Kids to the Outdoors is an excellent example of a program that brings together non-profit organizations, schools and businesses to provide important programming that benefits students, our schools, the community, the environment and our future workforce.