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Willmar Schools foundation may join with community foundation

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Public Schools Foundation may become an affiliate of the Willmar Area Community Foundation.

Representatives of the community foundation met with the school foundation board this week.

Dean Anderson, director of the Willmar Area Community Foundation, and Ken Behm, a board member, spoke with the school foundation board members about developing a formal relationship. They said the larger foundation could help the school foundation earn a higher rate of return on its money and might be able to help it increase its fundraising.

The school foundation board voted to continue to investigate the idea. A decision on whether to proceed could be made at the next quarterly meeting in April.

The Willmar Public Schools Foundation has been an independent entity since it was created to provide support and enhancements for the Willmar School District.

In recent years, the organization has used fundraising galas to support the district's music programs by purchasing marching band uniforms and choir robes. The foundation also helps low-income students pay activity fees and helps pay for some equipment and field trips.

At its meeting Monday, the Willmar Public Schools Foundation board approved a $1,000 grant to provide testing, prizes and an end-of-the-year celebration for the Accelerated Reader Program at Kennedy El-ementary.

The foundation raised $5,580 in its year-end fund drive, according to the treasurer's report. It also received a $10,000 donation from the Elaine Adams donor-advised fund, through the community foundation.

"Our goal is to raise money for all worthy nonprofits in our community," Anderson said. The community foundation is affiliated with the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, based in St. Cloud.

Anderson said Adams, a retired math teacher, sought advice about donations, and he showed her the Willmar Public Schools Foundation website. She particularly liked the idea of helping low-income students pay activity fees, he said, but she did not place limits on how her gift was to be used.

Many donors seek advice in distributing their funds, he said, and some of them may be interested in making education-related donations.

The Willmar Public Schools Foundation would maintain its autonomous board and its current fundraising efforts, Anderson said, but its affiliation with the larger foundations could help it grow.

"We've got much bigger plans for your organization," he said. "This could be a case study in how we could assist a local foundation in growing, not just investing money but growing."

Behm, a retired banker, said he has been impressed with the diligence with which the Central Minnesota Community Foundation monitors its investments. The Willmar Public Schools Foundation could decide to invest all its funds or to invest only a part of them, he said.

Board member Richard Falk said he supported the partnership, but he was concerned that the stock market isn't reliable enough for the foundation to get involved in that. Behm and Anderson said their foundation's more conservative investments would still earn more than the Willmar Public Schools Foundation's savings account.

Other board members said they wanted to learn more about a possible partnership.

"Their hearts are in this community," board member Suzanne Napgezek said of Anderson and his board, "and we still call the shots."

In other business, the board elected Duane Hanson president of the board, Bobbie Mattison vice president and Jeff Olson treasurer. The position of secretary will be filled at the next meeting. Napgezek also announced her resignation from the board, for personal reasons.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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