GPFPE ‘Be the Beacon’ benefit to take place June 3

Donation to GPFPE Endowment Fund honors George McMullen

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 26, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education, or GPFPE, is having a very busy year while continuing with its mission of supporting staff and students of the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

For starters, members of the nonprofit organization will host its “Be the Beacon” benefit June 3 at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, 788 Lake Shore Road. The event will raise money for the organization’s unrestricted grant fund, which supports the GPFPE’s grant program.

Since 2007, the GPFPE has provided $3.5 million in funding to the GPPSS. Funding has provided for new programs, school supplies, musical instruments, Chromebooks, classroom equipment and much more. Grants are distributed to teachers twice a year. Teachers, administrators, students, parents and community members can submit grant applications. A committee evaluates the grant applications before selecting the recipients.

“Be The Beacon” also will raise funds for Social Emotional Encouragement and Development, or SEED, a new program being launched this spring. SEED will fund grants specifically targeting social and emotional growth, healing and connections, and other mental health programs.

“The timing is right to launch the new SEED initiative, which will allow educators and administrators to apply for funding specifically targeting emotional and mental health programing,” GPFPE Board Vice President and Grants Committee Co-Chair Christie Scoggin said in a prepared statement. “Recognizing the many challenges our students are facing due to the (COVID-19) pandemic, we developed SEED in partnership with the GPPSS and it will be wonderful to expand our support of students’ social and emotional needs alongside academic support, at this time when it is needed most.”

Inspirational speaker and author JT Mestdagh is this year’s honorary chair. Mestdagh  grew up in Grosse Pointe Farms and has overcome many health challenges. According to a GPFPE press release, Mestdagh was “instrumental” in bringing the Tattum F.A.S.T. reading program to the district. The GPFPE supported the initial funding of the program.

Because of COVID-19, “Be The Beacon” will be held on the outside grounds of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club with social distancing, masking and other safety protocols. The evening will include dinner, an open bar and an auction. Visit for a complete list of event sponsors and to purchase tickets.

“We’re looking forward to a really good event. We welcome the community to be a part of it,” GPFPE Board President Bob Bury said. “We have wonderful sponsors and a wonderful welcoming committee.”

The GPFPE also recently announced a special fundraising effort to build the GPFPE Endowment Fund by accepting donations in honor of George McMullen, a Grosse Pointe Woods city councilman who passed away in December from pancreatic cancer.

McMullen was well known in the community, attended many functions throughout all five Grosse Pointes, served on different committees and supported many local nonprofits.The effort for the special endowment fund started through a $5,000 donation from an anonymous source in memory of McMullen.

“We were contacted by a person in the community who knew George and just admired his commitment to so many things, including schools. George was always supportive,” Bury said. “We thought it would be great to do something that has a long-lasting benefit. We wanted to be sure we were looking not only for today, but to future needs as well.”

The June 3 auction will be dedicated in McMullen’s memory. The donor reportedly is hopeful the lead gift of money will encourage others to donate in McMullen’s honor. At press time, three more individuals stepped up to donate to the fund, bringing up the total.

“Right now, it’s over $9,000,” Bury said. “It’s a great way to make an impact today and into the future.”

“Alex McCann, McMullen’s sister, was thrilled to learn that gifts from the community in her brother’s memory were helping grow the GPFPE’s Endowment,” the press release states. “In accordance with George’s wishes, Ms. McCann directed an additional $2,500 to the GPFPE’s Endowment Fund in his memory.”

The GPFPE currently has an endowment of $360,000 held at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which professionally manages the funds of thousands of organizations. The GPFPE endowment is an essential part of the organization’s larger, multi-pronged fundraising approach and overall comprehensive annual development effort.