Jim Fountaine and Harris Haugen had the same idea back in 1998: To create a committee that would benefit the Kenyon-Wanamingo School District.
Soon after receiving a presentation on how to start an education foundation from the Cannon Falls School District, the founding members modeled K-W’s ed foundation off Cannon Falls.
Of the Kenyon-Wanamingo Education Foundation’s start, Fountaine said: “We put together bylaws and an article of incorporation. The key thing for us was to get a good board of directors.”
After 24 years of being a part of the organization that’s helped fund educational equipment and projects not typically covered in the normal school budget at K-W, Fountaine and Haugen have both retired from the committee.
The duo were recognized by administrators and board members of the K-W School District at a July 25 meeting.
The foundation is now in need of new members to continue to support the work that has been done. Those interested in joining are urged to contact a board member of call the district office at 507-789-7001.
Fountaine said the board typically consists of at least two staff members, two School Board members, two students. and eight to 10 members of the community. School Board members Ben Bakken and Jamie Sommer currently sit on the board.
Part of the duties of the foundation’s board of directors includes electing a set of officers each year, organizing the committees to help secure funds for the foundation, planing meetings and meeting with the public.
Funding for foundation projects comes from donations and fundraisers. Fountaine said the organization is unique in the way it receives funding, as it can be through a variety of individuals, businesses and memorials.
The Education Foundation’s big fundraiser started out as a dinner with entertainment and a silent auction. But as time went on, Fountaine said it wasn’t as successful.
That was when the organization switched gears to host a family carnival. Without the carnival for three years due to COVID-19, the organization gathered efforts to make it possible again this last April. Fountaine said vendors were “very” generous, and left them with little expenses to be able to bring in $6,000 — almost three times the amount they typically make.
Other recent fundraising activities have included K-W water bottle sales at concession stands, the Kenyon Pool and City Hall; pay roll deductions, class reunions, Kenyon Muni, Amazon Smiles and Give to the Max Day.
“People of the community have been very generous to us,” Fountaine said. “Over 24 years, we’ve raised a quarter of a million dollars for projects. We wouldn’t have been able to fund as many projects otherwise. Big thank you to the community for supporting us. It’s been a lot of good for students.”
The foundation board meets twice a year, and Fountaine said board members often go to the school to see the projects that were purchased and learn more about how it works and how it benefits students.
“That part is enjoyable,” Fountaine said. “I’m from the chalkboard era, so it’s cool to see the technology elements out there nowadays.”
In the application process for projects, Fountaine said forms include what the project would be used for, how many students it would impact, how much it costs. Applications are reviewed by the foundation board, the building principal, the superintendent and then the School Board.
“We have to prioritize a lot of times, because there’s not always enough money to fund them all,” Fountaine said.
Organizers said a foundation is important because school districts have been forced to tighten their budgets. Not all educational material that administrators, teachers and members of the public feel are necessary can be funded. With a fully operational education foundation supported through donations and gifts, organizers said items not covered under the school district budget can be purchased.