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Requests to Willmar School Foundation reflect the economy

WILLMAR -- Requests for aid from the Willmar Public Schools Foundation provided a reminder Monday of how the recession is affecting families in the area.

The foundation's board of directors met Monday and agreed to pay $1,000 for activity fees for five students at Willmar Senior High.

The grant of $200 each will pay the fees the school district charges for students to participate in athletic activities. The students in question are in Cardettes, football, soccer and gymnastics.

Helping students whose families can't afford to pay their fees is one of the main reasons the foundation was formed 25 years ago. The foundation also supports a variety of other activities in the school district, including arts events and field trips.

The fee requests are generally approved without discussion. That was the case on Monday.

The written requests are routinely provided to board members, with names removed.

One of the requests began, "We feel very embarrassed to have to do this."

Two families said they had recently lost their houses. One talked about losing vehicles because of financial hardships.

One request described a parent on disability who can work only part time. Two said parents had lost their jobs in the past year. Two talked about the added difficulty in keeping an older child in college. One family mentioned a business in trouble, and another talked about a business closing.

In one, a parent offered to volunteer, writing, "I have more time than money right now."

The board delayed a decision on a request to provide $225 for a senior high human anatomy class to view a live autopsy through a video conference. Board members said they wanted more information before approving the request.

In other business, the board decided against holding a fundraising gala in April. Board members will discuss ideas for another type of fundraiser for the foundation.

Board members approved a newspaper advertisement and a letter to be sent to contributors for the year-end funding appeal.

Also Monday, the board reappointed three board members whose terms are about to expire. The appointments of Brad Schmidt, Bobbie Mattison and Jeff Olson will be subject to approval by the School Board.

New officers were named: Schmidt as president, Sandi Unger as vice president, Mattison as secretary and Olson as treasurer.

The board scheduled its four 2009 meetings for Jan. 12, April 13, Oct. 5 and Dec. 7. The meetings begin at noon in a second floor boardroom at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.