Do you ever wonder how the idea for a particular fundraising organization originates in someone’s mind? And specifically, for the DeKalb Education Foundation, how does that idea develop into a successful fundraising organization that, 25 years later, enriches the educational experiences of the students of DeKalb School District 428?
As students in DeKalb enter classrooms this fall, many will see a new addition to the room. For example, in Ms. Colvin’s Huntley Middle School classroom, students will be eager to use the SMART Table interactive learning center; Ms. Prellwitz’s first-graders will be excited about recording their voices with new Easi-Speak Recorders to develop reading skills; Ms. Jarvis, reading specialist at Huntley, will be expecting a newfound interest in reading when students are introduced to the Study Island reading package.
Unfavorable economic conditions notwithstanding, these types of curriculum enhancements were the types of supplements the founding directors had in mind when they established DEF.
The idea behind the DEF began with someone who saw an opportunity that would encourage a partnership between the school district and the community.
In 1987, as the school year began, DeKalb school board member John Rey read over the financial information at a meeting. With adverse economic conditions affecting the school district’s operating budget, it was clear that if students were going to experience many of the educational programs, activities and supplemental materials designed to enrich the curriculum, the necessary funding would have to come from an outside source.
In recognizing the need for a link between the business sector and schools, the idea for a nonprofit fundraising foundation was formed.
Rey continued to be instrumental in the formation of DEF, recruiting individuals from different sectors to serve on the board of directors. Thoughtful planning combined with the shared mindset that places a high value on education, laid the groundwork that continues to guide the DEF.
The initial investment began with a promise from a local couple who agreed to make an anonymous donation of $50,000 if DEF could raise a matching $50,000 by the end of 1987.
With that incentive, fundraising became a priority. DEF raised the necessary $50,000 and received the match. Since then, DEF has been sustained by the financial support of community members.
Some contributions are earmarked for a special purpose. The first such contribution was from Marian Conde, a founding board member, and her brother, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz. This endowment gift was given to DEF on behalf of other family members in memory of their parents, who were committed to the importance of education. This gift gave rise to the Wirtz Award, which is awarded annually to an outstanding teacher or staff member.
Additionally, DEF has the responsibility of awarding eight senior scholarships. The establishment of these scholarships, through donor designation, reflects a commitment to the importance of education.
Each year, DEF receives many worthwhile grant requests from teachers requesting funding for enriching educational materials or programs. Grants are awarded on the basis of merit, innovation, number of students who benefit and longevity. By collecting and dispersing donations, DEF is doing more than simply fulfilling grant requests.
Through education, DEF is providing community members with an opportunity to invest in the future of the students, schools and the community.
As John Castle said in 1987, “today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders.” With that in mind, DEF proves to be a worthy investment with benefits that have the potential to last a lifetime.
For information about DEF, visit www.dekalbeducationfoundation.org.
Correspondence or tax-deductible donations can be sent to: DeKalb Education Foundation, P.O. Box 412, DeKalb, IL 60115.