Catholic schools respond to foundation’s challenge to raise $25,000

The Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of St. Cloud took on a challenge offered by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation: Every school raising at least $25,000 in gifts over and above previous giving or from new donors, starting Jan. 1 and ending March 31, would receive another $25,000 from the Schulze Foundation.

Steve Hoeppner, the foundation’s executive director, visited schools last fall to explain the process. The foundation asked each school leader to consider how they would sustain enrollment and boost their operational capacity and effectiveness.

To determine how best to impact their growth and excellence with new financial resources, schools drew from their own missions and visions. They applied individually for the challenge grants to achieve an ambitious goal with a tight timeline.

“Usually our finances refer us back to living within set means,” said David Fremo, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools. “The past two years have been difficult for our Catholic school communities. They’ve responded to many unknowns with what they do best — learning, growth and adaptation. Parents and friends have sustained our schools with prayer and countless acts of giving of time, talent and treasure.

“These challenge grants have brought blessing upon blessing. It’s not often we see such opportunities — to be able to dream about growing our efforts,” he said.

Embracing the challenge

“We raised over $42,000 in one night. We talk about how a ‘spark of kindness’ has an impact on those around us. This grant provided a spark that will have a lasting and profound effect on the future of our faith community.” 
— Principal Tom Haire,    St. Mary’s School, Breckenridge

Maria Heymans-Becker, principal at St. Katharine Drexel School in St. Cloud, described one heartfelt contribution. “A woman brought her jars of coins and cash, amounting to $782. We sang to her and prayed a blessing over her and her gift,” she said.

St. Katharine Drexel raised just under $54,000. They have hired an art specialist and will strengthen programs for social and emotional learning that assist children in self-regulation and healthy conflict resolution.

“In Pierz, the $52,000 raised by Holy Trinity School will help construct a new playground for our early childhood program,” said Michelle Litke, principal. “This reassures the community that our early childhood program is growing. Donations came in quickly — and people reached out afterward asking if we needed more,” she said.

Sacred Heart Area School in Staples will expand its pre-K program, said Principal William Liedl.

“We see a strong need for day care. With our pre-K program, we can grow the school in an organic way and strengthen our financial stability,” Liedl said. “We are struck by how much the community cares for us, like a breath of fresh air.”

St. Mary School in Melrose has hired a bilingual family liaison. Principal Autumn Nelson said, “As we look to increase our enrollment of bilingual students, this will help us communicate, translate documents and interpret information for parents.”

Melrose also hired a marketing coordinator and will pilot new science and religion curricula, focus on professional development and strengthen students’ behavioral, social and emotional skills.

“St. Mary’s School in Breckenridge will hire a director of development,” said Tom Haire, principal. “We raised over $42,000 in one night. We talk about how a ‘spark of kindness’ has an impact on those around us. This grant provided a spark that will have a lasting and profound effect on the future of our faith community.”

Among the diverse uses for funds at other schools are refreshing instructional materials with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) supplies or other curriculum, expanding offerings, supporting the differentiated needs of students, upgrading buildings and updating websites.

More scholarships

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation offered the diocese the opportunity to raise an additional $50,000 for Catholic elementary education using the same process and time frame.

“Our office surpassed $190,000, all earmarked for scholarships,” said David Eickhoff, executive director of the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of St. Cloud. “Every elementary school will receive an additional $7,000 next year to increase and retain enrollment. People contributed generously because Catholic education is important — it makes a difference every day for hundreds of years.”

“The word that encapsulates this challenge is ‘gratitude,’” Fremo added. “We are grateful for all our Catholic school supporters. It has refreshed spirits and awakened new hope and joy in the ministry of Catholic education and provided an opportunity for loving and generous response from those who see the value and impact of our schools in their lives.

“We hope to partner with the Schulze Foundation in the future and welcome other efforts and ideas our communities have for growing and sustaining educational excellence in our schools.”

Photo: Adobe Stock

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

Leave a Reply

*