SOUTH HAVEN — It took 15 years, but the Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation has finally been recognized as an independent foundation by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and more importantly, it now has a nearly $600,000 financial windfall to invest.

The news came last week after the South Haven foundation received accreditation from the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations.

When that occurred, the Kalamazoo foundation agreed to transfer $587,300 from its South Haven Community Foundation funds to the local foundation and its youth fund.

“We are one of the smallest community foundations that has met those standards,” said Jim Marcoux, executive director of the South Haven foundation.

Fifteen years ago, Marcoux envisioned a local foundation with a local board to manage endowments and provide grant funding to local nonprofits.

When the South Haven foundation was formed it requested that money being managed by Kalamazoo’s South Haven Community Foundation funds be transferred. But the Kalamazoo board was hesitant to do so.

“We met with Kalamazoo in 2004 and said ‘we’re trying to be independent,’” Marcoux recalled. “We were told ‘you’ll never make it.’ They felt we were too small.”

South Haven had another problem – no money.

“We had goose eggs, zilch,” Marcoux said.

Slowly but surely that changed.

The South Haven foundation now manages more than $1.5 million in funds in 19 separate endowments. It also provides approximately $30,000 in grants each year to nonprofits and community projects.

“We are proud to support the Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation in their growth and progress,” says Joanna Donnelly Dales, vice president of Donor Relations at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

“Attaining National Standards accreditation, nonprofit status and steady growth demonstrates their continued commitment to the greater South Haven community and its well-being.”

Andy Barnes, president of the South Haven foundation, said he was pleased of the Kalamazoo foundation’s decision to transfer funds to the local group.

“This allows us to strategically support programs that enhance the quality of life of South Haven residents and surrounding communities through education, economic development and arts and culture,” he said.

Most recently, the South Haven foundation agreed to provide a matching grant of up to $25,000 for a splash pad that is under construction at the city’s South Beach. The foundation and its endowment partners also initiated the Kids Collaboration summer program to provide summer activities to youngsters in the South Haven area.

The transfer of $587,300 in unrestricted funds from the Kalamazoo foundation will now allow the foundation to provide even more grant funds to nonprofits and community projects, Marcoux said.

In looking toward the future, the South Haven foundation hopes to hire a director to manage its growing amount of funds.

“Up to this point, we’re 100 percent volunteer,” Marcoux said.