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  • Corby Fichter

Foundation Touts Big Year

As president of the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation, I’m very happy to report that, by every measure, we had our biggest year ever in 2019.

And we start 2020 – our fifth year – poised to take some major steps to enhance the educational opportunities and experience for students and alumni of the Shenandoah Community Schools.

It’s all happening because of the generous donations and pledges made by hundreds of alumni, alum-nots, former & present faculty and staff, as well as some local businesses and organizations. They understand and are investing in the idea that having stronger schools is key to the vitality and prosperity of our whole area, now and in the future.

SIEF President, Corby Fichter
SIEF President, Corby Fichter

I hope that this update will help give everyone a really good glimpse of what has been happening in our foundation over the past year. And I want to give all of you an idea what we have going on and coming up in 2020.

Let’s number our priorities, to help keep this as simple as possible. There are 10 of them. I know, that’s a lot. But they are all really, really good!

1). Our 11-member board of directors – all of us volunteers and donors – has approved hiring a part-time executive director to assist the board in fulfilling the foundation’s vision and mission statements. Let me remind you what those statements are:

a).Vision statement: To enhance a new excellence for students in the Shenandoah Community School District now and for generations to come.

b). Mission statement: To raise, invest, and manage funds to support and expand opportunities for our students through a sustainable endowment.

Our foundation was very blessed late in 2019 to receive a gift of $250,000 from a donor in our area who wants to remain anonymous. This gift, along with a great start to our “Family Challenge” (which I will discuss in my second priority), has given our foundation an endowment large enough that we can – and need to -- hire someone who can provide specific time and energy to help us continue building that endowment and fulfilling our vision and mission statements. We will be advertising this job very soon on this website, our Facebook page, our Twitter account, on KMA radio and their website, and also on the school district’s website We will be posting a job description along with this announcement. We hope to interview candidates in late March or early April. If you or someone you know might have an interest in working with our foundation, please reach out to me or anybody on our board. To be clear, we are looking for a part-time executive director to start very soon. It is our hope and desire that this position will eventually be a full-time position, as we continue to grow our endowment and the work that we are doing.

2). Let’s talk about the Family Challenge. Back in September of 2019, our foundation announced this challenge initiated by the Bob and Kathy Sweeney family. That challenge was to find 24 more families during 2020 to pledge giving $1,000 per year for 10 years. Then we’d have to find 25 more families to join the challenge in 2021, and then 25 more in 2022, and 25 more in 2023. After four years, we’d have 100 families pledging $1,000 per year for 10 years – for a grand total of $1,000,000. As of our last board meeting, on February 12, we learned we have 17 families that have said “yes” and have signed a pledge agreement for the Family Challenge. Our board member Chuck Offenburger, a retired journalist, has had the opportunity to write some stories on some of the families that have joined the challenge, and is planning to write many more stories about other families joining our cause. This is such a tremendous start to the Family Challenge! On behalf of our foundation, I just want to say a huge “thanks” to all of the families that see the need to help us enhance a new excellence for all our students of the Shenandoah Community Schools. If you want to join us and be part of the first 25 families in 2020, please reach out to us. We only need eight more families for 2020. Once we reach that goal, we will start moving on to 2021!

3). Now let’s touch base on a new partnership that the foundation will begin in 2020 with the George S. & Grace A. Jay Memorial Trust. The Jay Trust has been offering loans for students pursuing further education after high school for the past many, many years. The board of the Jay Trust has asked our foundation to help distribute scholarships over and above their loan program for graduates of Shenandoah High School. We are still determining just exactly how this process will work and how many scholarship dollars will be available, but it is our full intentions to provide scholarships beginning in the fall of 2020. We will have additional information soon as we continue to work on the details. It is an honor to become a part of the Jay Trust that has provided financial assistance to our high school graduates for so many years!

4). And speaking of new scholarships, remember that large anonymous gift of $250,000 received in 2019? Well, that gift will have three Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation scholarships of $5,000 each to be awarded to three high school seniors that will be majoring in an agricultural field of study at the college of their choice. We will be awarding the first three of these scholarships this spring for fall semester 2020. This is a tremendous opportunity to be able to support three deserving students per year who have a heart and passion to build careers in the agricultural industry. This is absolutely exciting news!

5). We have two local events scheduled for 2020 to give local people and visitors fun opportunities to support our foundation and thus support our Shenandoah schools:

a). The first of those events is our second annual “5K Run/Walk” which will be held Memorial Day weekend here in Shenandoah. Last year’s inaugural run/walk was a success, even with a little rain and a storm delay, and we are hoping for even more people to come out and join us for a morning of fun that will help support our foundation and the schools. We will be posting additional and updated information on this event in the very near future.

b). The second event will be the Pete Weber Memorial Golf Tournament to be held September 25 at the Shenandoah golf course. This is the Friday before the annual Shenfest celebration. Weber, a 1980 graduate of Shenandoah High and a very popular member of the alumni and community, died at age 57 last July. Our foundation vice-president Alan Armstrong has been very instrumental in coordinating this event. More details are coming on the tournament as we get closer to Shenfest.

6). We also want to re-focus our “$100 Club” in 2020. The board initiated the $100 Club a couple of years ago, and we had a pretty good start with more than 90 people contributing. Our board realizes that we have many supporters of our school who do not have the financial ability to give larger sums of money. But we also recognize that there are many people who desire to give to our foundation to support our school, and the $100 Club provides that opportunity. We will be discussing ways to encourage you to give to the $100 Club on an annual basis. This will be a very important topic for our board and our new executive director in coming months. For those of you who have given to the $100 Club, I say “thanks” for your contribution and support! We need many more people to join us $100 Club members.

7). Our board is in the process of updating our website. We have realized we need to “freshen-up” the site and are looking for some local talent to help us do just that. I am not exactly sure when this will happen, but Chuck Offenburger is overseeing the make-over.

8). We are changing the name of our “mini-grant” program to our “grant” program. Due to the size of our endowment today, we feel we can increase the size and number of grants for the many things our teachers want and need to go above and beyond what they can do with existing school budgets. Our desire is to be able to continue expanding the grant program for years to come, helping the teachers give their students some exceptional learning opportunities.

9). I also want you to know that our board’s investment committee is developing an investment plan, now that we have an endowment that requires us to invest in more than CDs and savings accounts. We know we must be prudent and safe with the contributions that have been given and will be given in the future, but we also know we must invest sufficient dollars in appropriate investment vehicles for the long-term success of our foundation and endowment. We will be reaching out to two or three investment companies for their counsel on how best to invest the endowment we now have.

10). We have a great partnership with KMA. They have been instrumental in helping us with telling our story about the Family Challenge, local events, $100 Club, and updating all of you on what is going on with our grant program. Our board has agreed to continue that relationship going into 2020. We want you to be able to continue to hear foundation board members on monthly info-mercials letting you all know what is going on with the foundation. It is a great way for us to “get the word out” to the many people who listen to the broadcasts and use the KMA website to stay on top of local and area news. We truly appreciate this partnership.

Yes, I know this is a long update, but I am very excited about what has transpired for our foundation in 2019. And I am even more excited about what 2020 will and can bring.

Before I close, I would be remiss if I didn’t reach out to you – as a reader of our website and I am sure someone who is very interested and supportive of the Shenandoah Community Schools – to consider a contribution to the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation. Whether that is $100 to support our $100 Club on an annual basis, or $1,000 per year to join the 17 families that have already joined the Family Challenge, or just to contribute what you are able. But please think about joining us in helping our students and teachers to excel in what they do best. Thank you for your continued support of the Shenandoah schools.

If you have any questions about what our foundation is doing, please feel free contact me or anybody else on our foundation board, and you can find how to reach us by clicking here. We would love to hear from you!

You can reach the foundation president by email right here:

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