Foundations Expand Schools’ Capabilities

POTTSTOWN, Oct. 15, 2019—Unlike many of the grants the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation awards each year, which are used primarily to promote healthy lifestyles and behaviors among residents in the region, some grants are used to help support the nonprofits themselves. These stories often go unnoticed because they focus more on behind-the-scene activities, rather than public-facing benefits. That’s the case with The Foundation for Pottstown Education and The Foundation for Boyertown Education. Both used PAHWF’s grants to advance their organization’s abilities to raise funds.

Students work with new welding equipment at Boyertown High School.

Boyertown High School students work with new welding equipment.

“Just in this grant cycle alone, which ended on June 30, 2019, we were able to increase the contributions we raised on our own by almost 60% over the start of the grant period,” said Joe Rusiewicz, Executive Director at The Foundation for Pottstown Education.

“We couldn’t have done this without the (PAHWF) Foundation’s funding and, more importantly, their support.”

The mission of both Foundations for Education is clear and straightforward: to raise money to support educational programs and services for their respective school districts. “We fund things that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive to the schools,” said Tessi Melchior, Executive Director at The Foundation for Boyertown Education.

The Foundation for Boyertown Education has been in operation for six years, and the nonprofit has generated a ton of positive results for the school district.

“With the grants from Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation in the past two years, we’ve been able to raise more than $282,900 to fund $108,000 in various projects. We funded $90,000 last year alone and $18,000 so far this year,” said Melchior.

With the ability to offer more resources, educators have the potential to open students up to new experiences that can either enrich learning or, perhaps, introduce them to future career paths. For example, a laser engraver was funded for the high school, which supported technical education and giving students hands- on experience. There was also a piece of welding equipment that exposed kids to a new trade and may eventually allow the district to offer future welding certification classes.

The impact of the contributions has short-term gain for students and lasting impact for the community’s sustainability. At the elementary level, new educational technology was added to the classroom to help engage kids more in the learning process. The Boyertown Foundation also invested in a Teachers in the Park summer learning program for students K-5 throughout the district held at Boyertown and Bally Community Parks.

“The grants we received from the Foundation have allowed us to get our story out to the community, and to garner more awareness and support for our mission,” said Melchior. “This, in turn, has helped us grow our donor base, increase our budget, and become a stronger and more independent nonprofit. In other words, the Foundation has helped us become yet another successful partner in the community – one that is well- positioned to fund projects for the Boyertown School District well into the future.”

Similarly, The Foundation for Pottstown Education, which initially began in 1985 as the Partners in Pottstown Public Schools (PIPPS) and was renamed in 2009, has been able to improve their organization’s fundraising activities –– all to support students in their district.

“To become better fundraisers, we used a grant from the Foundation to attend a series of nine different, all-day fundraising training sessions offered and taught by The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University,” said Rusiewicz. “Through these sessions, we were able to establish a Development Committee that focuses on fundraising and launch a new Endowments and Annuities program to ensure the future growth of our organization.”

Some of the exciting initiatives The Foundation for Pottstown Education funded include STEM & Robotics, a national initiative that teaches students to build robots and relate the concept of Science, Technology,

Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness (PEAK), a nationally recognized Early Childhood initiative that prepares students for academic success; and the Pottstown Early College Program, which provides high-achieving, low-income students the opportunity to finish their first year of college during their junior and senior years.

“I truly enjoy working with the Foundation, not just because of the grants, but because of their interest in making Pottstown a better community,” said Rusiewicz. “People are very proud to live in Pottstown.

“They’re proud of what we have here. And I think the Foundation is central to that.”

This story appeared in the fall 2019 issue of ‘Well-Informed’the Foundation’s semi-annual community benefit report.  Read more stories that show the impact of our grantees.

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