Nonprofit exceeds $10.3M fundraising goal


A crowd of people walk into the Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center at the Blandford Nature Center in northwest Grand Rapids. Photo via

A gift from an out-of-state donor has allowed a local nature center to finish its three-year capital campaign ahead of schedule with more funds than requested.

Blandford Nature Center President and CEO Jason Meyer said today the nonprofit received a sizable gift from Linda Bleyerveld Weeks of Billings, Montana, allowing the center to close out its $10.3 million Growing Up Blandford capital campaign with $10.6 million. The organization had planned to finish the campaign by September.

The Business Journal reported on Nov. 22 that Blandford had raised $9.7 million of the total.

Weeks is a longtime friend and former geology pupil — or “Rockhound” — of the center’s founder, Mary Jane Dockeray.

“I am so pleased to make this gift to honor my memories of Mary Jane and of the eight years I spent with her learning about geology,” Weeks said. “That was such an important part of my life, and I just want to be sure that Blandford’s programs continue forever so that other children can have these memories, too.”

Blandford launched the capital campaign in fall 2014 with lead gifts from Dockeray and the Wege Foundation.

Since then, more than 450 others from around the world have donated funds to help build the new Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center — which opened on Earth Day, April 22. Blandford also will use the donations to help build its endowment fund.

“We are excited to thank everyone who supported this effort and to let the whole community know that we have been successful at starting the next chapter of Blandford’s story,” Meyer said.

In addition to building the new visitor center and converting the former visitor center into the Peter M. Wege Environmental Education Center, Blandford Nature Center acquired the former Highlands Golf Club earlier this year through a partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.

Katelyn Netter, volunteer and outreach manager at Blandford, said the projects are nearing the home stretch.

“We are currently putting the finishing touches on the Environmental Education Center and just completed the green-roof installation on the visitor center this past week,” she said.

She said the new construction has helped grow visitor traffic “sky high” and allows for more program capacity, putting the nonprofit on a path toward sustainable growth.

“The community has made it clear that exposure to nature is important in Grand Rapids, and we will continue to grow to meet that need,” Meyer said.

Blandford Nature Center

Nonprofit organization Blandford Nature Center, 1715 Hillburn Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, aims to engage and empower the community through enriching experiences in nature. The center includes an outdoor environmental lab and a team of staff members dedicated to sustainability and education.

Blandford offers a variety of educational and community programs. For more information, visit

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