Ephrata’s education foundation finds new funding alternatives

By on July 6, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Since its founding in 2004, the Ephrata Area Education Foundation has been a bright spot in a challenging era of funding public education.

Founded as a means to provide additional funding to its schools in the Ephrata Area School District, the foundation is a blending of community, business and school leaders determinded to foster a positive educational environment throughout the district.

Through its considerable efforts, EAEF has been able to supplement the education Ephrata students receive through supporting teachers with equipment, student scholarships and even grants for programs which may not find funding through the school district.

But as state and federal budgets continue to squeeze local districts to do meet demands with less money, EAEF has become an especially important and integral part of the quality of local education.

"The district and the community must work together to ensure that students have every chance at success," said Kati Farrer, the foundation’s new development director.

EAEF has already helped through a variety of focal points. They have supplied classrooms with interactive whiteboard and continue to raise funds for the program. It has also raised funds to purchase laptops to use in classrooms and through the Laptop Lending Program.

The foundation has also been an active partner with the Ephrata Area School District in serving the early childhood population.

"Our goal is to ensure that all pre-school children are afforded the same opportunities for success upon transitioning into the public school setting," Farrer said.

Education is increasingly reliant on new technology which is not only useful in the approach teachers use to educate, Farrer said, but also in equipping our students to live effectively in the 21st century.

E-textbooks are one such technology which bears a great cost, but which EAEF has targeted as an important area. They have been instrumental in a pilot program to test switching from paper textbooks to electronic textbooks. The program supplies students with e-readers or netbooks to access textbooks in class and at home.

And then there are the various student scholarships EAEF has raised money to support. These scholarships allow students to take online courses not typically offered in the classroom. It also allows them to take courses that do not fit into a student’s schedule due to a heavy course load and personal responsibilities, and courses to recover credits.

The foundation also continues to support the Outdoor Learning Center, alternative education and Venture Grant Programs through the Pennsylvania Educational Tax Improvement Credit Program (EITC).

One of the great "shining moments" for the foundation was when it was able to fund the construction of the Outdoor Learning Pavilion at the district farm. The center provides innovative, real life experiences to learners in collaboration with community and industry.

Venture Grants have also been a significant bright spot EAEF has been responsible for. Since its inception in 2004, the foundation has supported the district by funding nearly 40 Venture Grants. These grants benefit all grade levels throughout the district.

Of course, fundraising remains a challenge throughout these economically tough time, Farrer said. The foundation raises its funds through a variety of methods including the generous donations of businesses, community members and alumni, grant writing, staff giving programs and tribute programs. And the foundation will be hosting their first annual special event next year.

"We are fortunate that the Ephrata area community has continued to support our programs and goals," Farrer said. "It is always more difficult to raise funds during difficult economic times. Grants become much more competitive."

The foundation is managed by a board of directors that include Dr. William Funk, president of Cocalico Dental Offices; Dean Hoover, vice president of Weinhold, Nickel and Company; Aaron Groff, treasurer of the Ephrata National Bank; Sen. Mike Brubaker; Robert Miller, director of the Ephrata Area School Board; John Porter, of the Ephrata Community Hospital; Gerald Rosati, superintendent of the district; and Dr. Brian Troop, also of the district.

Non-voting members of the foundation include Kati Farrer, development director; Jean Hornberger, busines manager of the district; and Stephanie Gingrich, public relations coordinator for the district.

While the list of board members is broad and diverse, none of the activities of the foundation could be possible without help from the community. Farrer said there are many ways in which local residents can help pitch in to help support the effort.

"They can volunteer their time, make a donation, attend an event or sponsor the recognition of an exceptional staff member at Ephrata Area School District," she said.

Farrer added that the foundation is trying to start a Speakers Bureau, which would include visits from alumni and members of the Ephrata community who discuss their area of expertise with students.

"This is a great way for our students to see the opportunities that are available to them and the steps needed to get there," she said.

The Speakers Bureau is just one idea Farrer has brought with her since she joined the foundation last fall. Her primary duties include grant writing, fundraising and alumni relations.

Farrer was previously a volunteer grant writer for the Lancaster Career and Technology Foundation and served as public information director for Wilson School District. She holds a bachelor of science degree from Drexel University and a master’s degree from Villanova University.

"I am excited to be back in the Ephrata area to work for the foundation," Farrer said. "They have already accomplished so much, and it is my desire to bring more funding and awareness to the programs taking place in our community." More FUNDING, page A20

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