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Donation helps kick off Holyoke Re-1J Foundation's focus, mission PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Lee   

An updated science room and some work in the library hopefully got a jump start earlier this week when a check was presented to the Holyoke Re-1J Foundation, Inc. on behalf of Jim and Betty Lenz.

Lenz Farms was selected as a winner in America’s Farmers Grow Communities program. The donation was available through the Monsanto Fund, and Betty designated Holyoke Re-1J Foundation to receive the award for Phillips County.

The Monsanto Fund invests more than $3 million in roughly 1,200 counties in the United States annually.

Supt. Bret Miles, pictured at left was joined by Re-1J Foundation, Inc. president Michelle Van Overbeke,
vice president Tom Bennett, Jim Lenz and Bruce Postovit Monday afternoon at HHS. Postovit, representing
Monsanto, and Lenz presented the foundation with a check to benefit the library and science lab projects.  
—Enterprise photo

Foundation shares focus

Holyoke Re-1J Foundation is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to enriching and improving the quality of the educational environment in the Holyoke School District.

The mission of the foundation is to advocate, promote and fund initiatives designed to partner with the school district to improve student performance and advance quality educational opportunities for all children.

Five community members with leadership, business experience and long-term ties to the school district sit on the foundation board.

Members include Michelle Van Overbeke, president; Tom Bennett, vice president; Rena Schneller, secretary/treasurer; Glenn Huwa; and Troy Killin.

Bennett noted the current board members aren’t there because they have an agenda.

“The five of us were asked or voluntarily wanted to be a part of it because we believe a lot of what Bret (Miles) and the school are doing,” Bennett said.

The Re-1J Foundation collaborates with the school district to best serve the students. The board of education identifies projects that are needed but not fully funded at the district level.

The foundation board attended a joint work session with the Re-1J board of education in December to detail and discuss projects. The foundation then selects the projects they feel best fit with their mission to advocate, promote and fund.

There are four funds the foundation maintains. They include academic equipment, technology, health/wellness and a general fund.

The academic equipment fund’s two active projects include the library renewal and science lab update projects. Lenz said he and Betty are anxious to come back and see what their donation helped achieve.

The technology fund is actively pursuing electronic interactive whiteboards for every classroom. Currently the Promethean boards are in the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade rooms as well as high school and junior high math rooms.

An active project in the health and wellness fund is an all-weather track. Private funds to be used for the project were received as recently as December 2010. The foundation will oversee the funds as progress moves forward.

The general fund will help support other funds as well as the administrative needs of running the foundation.

Van Overbeke said the current projects don’t define the foundation by any means. “Once we’re committed to projects, we want to see them through,” Van Overbeke said.

The position of the economy and budget cuts force schools to cut things they wouldn’t like to. The foundation looks to maintain the schools and even take that maintenance a step further.

Because of budget cuts to public education at the state and federal government levels, the burden of funding education has grown at the local level, according to the foundation. The Re-1J Foundation, Inc. can serve a needed niche of offering the public an opportunity to support our schools through a charitable organization with independence and accountability.

The foundation works with the school administration to fund projects that serve the current needs of the students and augments the ability of the school district to meet those needs.

Since the foundation is a 501(c)(3), all donations made are tax deductible.

Project proposals go through the school and not through the foundation. The foundation will then analyze proposals and work within their mission statement and funds. If everything matches up, the foundation will assist to get the project in motion.

The foundation was founded in 1996 but has been largely inactive until last year when the district began facing budget cuts. “The need became even more apparent,” Van Overbeke said.

“The way the foundation has chosen to organize is really ideal for the school,” Supt. Bret Miles said. He noted it allows them to sit down and figure out priorities and see what people want to be a part of. The foundation can then market and collect for the project and give people an avenue.

“We’re at the very beginning,” Van Overbeke said. “The rock is being pushed up the hill.”