Grand Island Foundation Webpage
Grand Island Foundation Launched

The Grand Island Foundation, a new non-profit organization, was launched officially last week at a reception and press conference. The brainchild of school board member Myrna Blair, the foundation is dedicated to providing private funds for educational and extracurricular enrichment activities not covered in town or school budgets. It was born from the ashes of canceled field trips. Four years ago newly elected school trustee Myrna Blair was upset to realize that some programs needed to be cut from the budget in an effort to keep taxes low. At a conference on school law later that year she heard a speaker discuss non-profit education foundations. That sparked the idea of a Grand Island organization. Blair enlisted the support of Superintendent Paul Fields, who was pleased to encourage a group that would help to enhance school programs without using taxpayer dollars. Grand Island's foundation, however, is independent from the school district, since it hopes to work with town groups dealing with youth as well.
The Foundation was incorporated, and with the help of Chris Learman, a certified public accountant, non- profit status was approved by the IRS. Learman explained her involvement by recalling that when she was in high school in Niagara-Wheatfield, austerity budgets had resulted in limited activities for students. "It's so important to provide enrichment activities and that's what I hope the Foundation can do," she said. Town Supervisor Peter McMahon welcomed the organization and praised its purpose. "This is entirely different from the Neighbors Foundation," he stated. "They work with families. The Grand Island Foundation aims to work with the town and the schools to enrich children's lives."
Councilman Dick Crawford, in addition to expressing his approval of the organization, presented Blair with his own check as a contribution. "My expertise as an accountant," Blair stated, "and Chris Learman's as well, will be of help when we do the bookkeeping and prepare tax returns. We will take care of the proper recording of donations." She plans to set up a specific committee to handle distribution of funds, probably through grants. "If people want to donate money for the schools, it has to go into the general fund," Blair said, "but donations to the Foundation can be earmarked for a specific purpose."
Although last week was the Foundation's official launch, funds have already been provided by the Grand Island teachers, who held a dress-down day which netted $500. Additional dollars were raised thanks to the Grand Island School Business Alliance (GISBA). Those dollars have made possible an island-wide mailing, to be held within the next couple of weeks, that will explain the Foundation's purpose and suggest ways to contribute. Fund-raising activities are also being planned.
The Foundation has a nine-member board of directors, five of whom are alumni of the school system. They are Noel Blair Jr., Frank Cannata, Sally Gollwitzer Goris, Teddy Klingel Linenfelser and Maura McCowan Rustowicz. Serving as officers are Myrna Blair, president; Dr. Paul Fields, vice president; Chris Learman, treasurer and Lee Cohen, secretary.
One of the Foundation's goals is to contact alumni as well as the general populace. "We hope to reach alumni so that they can participate in giving back for what was given to them in schooling here," Blair said. "We also would like to see a Grand Island Alumni Association established."
Non-profit, tax-exempt education foundations are not unique. According to a spokesman for the Public Education Network, a national association Washington, D.C., there are more than 2500 nationally, with about 12 to 15 percent of schools served by a foundation. They have sprung up to help school districts cope with tighter dollars. In this area Williamsville, Amherst, East Aurora and Clarence have non-profit, tax-exempt education foundations.
Blair realizes it will take time to build up capital. "We have to start somewhere, but wouldn't it be lovely if we could build up such a huge endowment that we could eliminate real estate taxes? Realistically, I want to see it grow, to continue to increase year after year so that we can point with pride to the community's support of our children, our grandchildren and our schools."

If you are a member of this organization we need your help. GIECOM.Net has partnered with the Connections program to help Grand Island as a community "Get it Together". Please visit our website G-I-Together.ORG and fill out our SURVEY. Every group on Grand Island will have its own FREE webpage, listing: meeting times location, contact persons, your Mission Statement and a listing of events. We will also be linking your news events that appear in the local media and on IsledeGrande.Com Grand Island's E-News Source, to your page, maintaining an archived journal of pictures and news. This is the perfect opportunity for your group to connect with potential new members and the community.

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