The Polish the Jewel fundraiser is an annual event where supporters of the Belle Isle Conservancy gather to show their support for new projects aimed at maintaining and improving the island.

The Polish the Jewel fundraiser is an annual event where supporters of the Belle Isle Conservancy gather to show their support for new projects aimed at maintaining and improving the island.

Photo provided by Elayne Gross Photography


Belle Isle Conservancy invites public to help Polish the Jewel

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published September 14, 2018

 This year’s Polish the Jewel fundraiser will primarily benefit the beach area formerly home to Belle Isle’s waterslide. In its place, new patio space, picnic areas, a café and a splash park will be installed.

This year’s Polish the Jewel fundraiser will primarily benefit the beach area formerly home to Belle Isle’s waterslide. In its place, new patio space, picnic areas, a café and a splash park will be installed.

Illustration provided by Danielle Jackson

DETROIT — The Belle Isle Conservancy is inviting people from across the Detroit area to join the group for its Polish the Jewel fundraiser.

The annual fundraiser will take place at the Detroit Yacht Club, 1 Riverbank Road on Belle Isle. It will consist of a luncheon, presentation and silent auction.

Aimed primarily toward female supporters, the program is often seen as an opportunity for people to dress in their finest.

“It is an event that many of the prominent and interested women in Detroit attend, and we raise around $200,000 a year,” said Alicia Masse, conservancy board member. “It provides funding for important investments the conservancy makes in the island. I think people support it because it’s a great cause and it gives them a chance to network with each other.”

Seating for the event starts at $150 per person or $1,500 per table. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by Friday, Sept. 21. People can do so by going to www.belleisleconservancy.org/ptj.

“This year’s fundraiser will be Thursday, Oct. 11, at 11 a.m. at the Detroit Yacht Club. DTE (Energy) is our lead sponsor,” said Sarah Earley, the event’s founder and chairperson. “A number of local businesses also are supporting it. We have a silent auction, and about 400 people usually attend the luncheon.”

This is the 14th annual Polish the Jewel luncheon; however, until 2011, when the conservancy was formed, it was hosted by another group that sought to improve the island.

“Back in 2004, I formed a nonprofit called the Belle Isle Women’s Committee to raise money for projects in the park,” said Earley. “In 2011, we merged four nonprofits to form the conservancy, but we still host the event to host events in the park.”

Funds raised from the event go toward the continued improvement and restoration of services and attractions on the island.

“In the past, we’ve done different projects. We’ve done a complete restoration of Sunset Point. We restored the roof of the stable building. Each of those was about a $1 million project and took several years to complete,” Earley said. “We also help support the aquarium, and we are working on a complete revitalization of the beach. Now we are raising money to go toward that project.”

This year, funds will go specifically toward the former site of the Belle Isle waterslide. New attractions are being installed in its place to keep the area a summer attraction for visitors to the island.

“They took down the old waterslide earlier this summer. Repair work (on the slide) would have been too expensive, but now there’s a nice little patio area, and we’ll be adding a splash park to the western side of that area, and we’ll be adding more picnic areas, parking and a café for food vendors,” Earley said. “We want to make it a nice, well-rounded place for people to spend a day at the beach.”

Organizers say supporting community resources such as Belle Isle is crucial to the well-being of a city. 

“Green space is so important. A healthy city has healthy parks, and this is part of a quality-of-life issue,” said Earley. “This lets people to access the water and spend time outside with children, or spend some time out for yourself. Without that access to nature, we are really leaving our citizens with only buildings and streets. You need to maintain that access to parks.”

Masse added that she hopes people will take the opportunity to come down and help out a wonderful cause.

“Please come and enjoy a spectacular luncheon with wonderful people for a wonderful cause that helps Detroit,” said Masse. “You really can’t beat it; it’s a lot of fun, which is why I love going every year.”