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Students embarked on a roadside clean-up project during this field trip. The project was funded with the help of the Morris Area Public Schools Foundation.

Building a foundation for Morris Area schools

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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The Morris Area Public Schools Foundation's next application round will begin soon after the holiday season, and it hopes to dispel the belief held by some that donations are reserved only for music programs.

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Kevin Wulf, the foundation board's director, said foundation funds are available to any teacher or project leader in the 769 School District, including programs such as Community Education and Early Childhood Family Education.

"What we consider is, how many kids does it affect?" Wulf said. "Does it meet our goals? We want to spread the wealth and not only focus on fine arts or core curriculum."

The foundation's mission statement, "To enhance and sustain the quality of education for citizens of all ages participating in programs of the Morris Area Public School District 769," indicates that its focus is broad, Wulf said.

The foundation was formally established in August 2007, and grant applications are considered three times per school year: In October, January and March.

In October 2008, the foundation approved grants for four projects and is processing requests for two others. Applications for the winter round are due Jan. 9, 2009.

Donors contributed $55,000 in 2007-2008, with $25,000 of that earmarked for a half-time music position. That was a large portion of the almost $37,000 the foundation granted, and might be the reason some believe the grants are geared toward music and fine arts. That's not the case, Wulf said.

The foundation also appreciates when applicants show initiative so that the foundation's grants serve mostly as a supplement to a funding package, he said.

No program is funded on an on-going or annual basis -- applicants need to submit requests for all grants.

"We don't want to be the end all (for funding)," Wulf said. "And we have to keep our donors in mind: Is this the way they want their money spent? We don't want to spend too freely."

So far, foundation funds have supported numerous and varied activities, such as elementary field trips, a choir symposium, classroom booklets, Minnesota Ag Day, a high school newspaper, the Tiger Pride program, physical education equipment, an 8th grade band trip, the swimming and diving team, a musical trip, CLIMB Theatre appearances and the Speech Team activities.

The foundation's fundraising and finances are coordinated through West Central Initiative, and donors can give to five funds: the Universal Fund, the Education Fund, the Extra Curricular Fund, the Endowment Fund and the Technology, Equipment and Capital Improvement Fund.

All donations to the 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization is tax deductible, and can be sent either to the foundation board or to WCI, Wulf said.

The foundation board meets the third Thursday of each month at noon in the Community Education office at the Morris Area Elementary School.

Donors or anyone seeking additional information can contact a foundation board member -- Ali Anderson, Bridget Backman, Judy Bluth, Brad Fehr, Jeff Lamberty, Reed Peterson, or Wulf -- or can contact Wulf by email at kevin.wulf@riverviewllp.com, or call him at (320) 287-0833.

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