The Perham Community Scholarship Program May 6 was not only a $50,000-plus bonanza for the Class of 2009. The Class of 2010, and beyond, received a $100,000 boost in their education.
In a surprise announcement, which brought a crowd of nearly 400 to their feet with a standing ovation, KLN Enterprises president Kenny Nelson donated $100,000 to the Perham Dent School system.
"This is a way to thank the community for everything it has done to make our businesses as successful as they are," said Nelson, himself a graduate of Perham High School. KLN is the maker of Barrel O' Fun snacks, Tuffy's pet foods and Kenny's Candies.
The announcement of the donation came at the 23rd annual scholarship program, where Perham High School students were awarded 167 scholarships from local and area organizations, foundations and civic groups. Each scholarship averaged from $250 to $500, according to Jan Turgeon, Perham High School counselor.
An injection of $100,000 couldn't have come at a more crucial time for the Perham-Dent schools.
Nearly $2.5 million has been cut from school district's operation budget over the past five years. A half-dozen teachers probably won't be reporting for duty next September. And those staff reductions follow about two dozen cooks, cleaners, custodians and para-professionals who lost their jobs over the past two years.
The $100,000 will be earmarked specifically for "teacher retention," which was the stipulation attached to the donation.
With the KLN donation, the l549 Family Foundation now has more than $110,000 available to help preserve educational programs for the coming school year.
The "More Than Nothing" campaign was launched by school supporters after the levy referendum was defeated last fall. With the defeat at the polls, the Perham-Dent schools got nothing in the way of new revenue--so the campaign is intended to bring in "More Than Nothing."
"What an awesome and generous gift to the community and school," said Jo Strege, director,, 549 Foundation. "What an incredible banner to wave for Perham."