(12/2/13) Trustees of the Black River Falls Educational Enrichment Fund (BRFEEF) have ended; however, their work, plus the dedication of alumni, educators and community members are leaving a legacy highlighting the intensity of continuing to provide quality education for the students of Black River Falls.
The roots of establishing the EEF began in 2005. Ann Pederson, then President of the Black River Falls Alumni Association, had been approached by Al Lahmayer about setting up a committee to oversee an account of $50,000, donated by the Lahmayer family, with a goal of raising funds of $400,000 which would aid the Black River Falls educators with needed programs and equipment. This committee began a fund-raising campaign targeting Black River Falls High School Alumni. In addition to Ann Pederson and Al Lahmayer, other committee members were Jean Anderson, Todd Anderson, Duane Bowen, Barb Hanson, Dave Hoffman, Gil Homstad, John and Sharon Lund, David Lund, Bob Lecheler, Dave Meyer, Dan Mills, Mary O'Brien, Barb Sedelbauer and Hattie Walker.
Dave Lund, President-elect of the Alumni Association at that time, purchased a used computer to track individual donations and pledges by setting up an Excel spreadsheet and later modified to keep totals by graduating classes. Dave shared that the committee started with the old BRF Alumni Directory which covered the years from 1875 to 1980 and began to create a new alumni list of living graduates, supplementing the list with later graduates by going to the library and using the yearbooks. The Alumni Association also had a list of contacts for each class, usually the person who had organized the last class reunion. This was useful with the older classes. For the more recent classes, the Class Presidents were notified for accessible addresses, and, of these, some classes had very good records. The internet was used extensively to locate other alumni. Dave also called alumni listed in the BRF phone book to verify their addresses and to gain addresses for their friends and siblings. This networking continued until a list of around 4000 names and addresses had been compiled up through the Class of 1999. The BRF School District supplied a list of graduates from 2000-2005, but not with current addresses. Since many of these graduates were still in post-secondary schools or early in their work careers, their names were not added to the list.
Using this compiled list of 4000 names, the first mailing was sent out with a brochure and letter. The Lunda Charitable Trust Fund donated monies for this mailing. From this, $120,000 was received. As donors contributed to the Educational Enrichment Fund, they could designate their donation to a specific department. Once donations for a specific department have accumulated to $25,000 the interest earned will be awarded to that department only. There now are two designated funds within the EEF, the BRF School District Music Fund and the M. C. Schmallenberg Fund for special education. Undesignated donations are listed under the general BRF Education Enrichment Fund.
John Lund entered the information, recorded the finances and maintained the communication with the Black River Falls Area Foundation.
In 2006, the EEF became a reality with a board of trustees, officers, bylaws and donated office space in the downtown Lahmayer Building, operating under the auspices of the Black River Falls Area Foundation. The members of the Board of Trustees were: Dave Meyer, Ken Wilkins, Paul Millis, Mary O'Brien, John Lund, Jim Bible, Dave Hoffman, Janet Krohn, Dave Lund, Barb Brower, Ann Pederson and Al Lahmayer, Trustee Emeritus.
Throughout the life of the EEF, contributions to the funds have been donated in various ways. The brochure, developed by Mary O'Brien, encourages contributions by way of a five-year pledge or gift, and, if the donor wishes, can be in memory or in honor of someone special. Only the interest from these donations is used for funding grants. As an incentive for alumni, graduating classes have been challenged to donate following monetary goals, payable over five years, i.e., graduation years in the 1970s—a $7,500 class goal with a recommended giving level of $200 ($40 a year) or more, and a goal of one major donor in the class giving $2,500 ($500 a year) or more. Class auctions have brought in funds to the EEF. Recently, the Class of 1968 donated $142 when it held its 45th class reunion. Additionally, contributions from many community members who have not graduated from the BRF High School have been received due to the strong ties to the BRF community and the school district.
In 2012, the EEF initiated the SUPPORTER program. The program's purpose is to solicit and encourage on-going donations of $50.00 per person or $100.00 per couple to help the BRF schools. Half of all the donations to the SUPPORTER program will fund grant requests each year, the remaining 50% increases the principal base.
Yearly, educators apply for grants for program needs and equipment. This year, nearly $13,000 was awarded to the district schools and included playground equipment for Forrest Street Early Learning Center, iPad2s for 4th and 5th graders for Gebhardt Elementary, art tables for the Middle School, a mobile room divider for the High School, percussion equipment for the High School marching band, to name a few.
New this year, the EEF sponsored the TigerPRIDE 5K Run/Walk and TigerCUB Youth Fun Run on Saturday, October 12, as part of the Homecoming festivities. Tess Johnson, EEF Trustee, and Chanda Janke were the race directors. There were over 180 registrants and given the success of the first year, it is hoped it will become an annual event. Some of the proceeds from this event may be used to fund the EEF's operational costs.
The BRFEEF is a nonprofit organization whose primary goal is to enhance the educational experiences of BRF students by providing funds for programs and equipment which cannot be funded through the district's budget due to tax caps and a decrease in state aid to our schools. With the dedicated perseverance and tenacity of people like Ann Pederson, Dave Lund and John Lund, the reality of the EEF emerged and will remain strong for years to come as others take on the leadership roles they so willingly modeled.