Leaders want to double giving this year

Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Hillsboro Schools Foundation development associate Ginny Watson (left) and board president Laura Bekken display the foundations new logo.Children have been a big part of Laura Bekken’s vision for many years.

As a special education teacher, and then as the Hillsboro School District’s director of special education, her professional life has revolved around children.

Now retired, children are at the center of her volunteer life.

A volunteer for the Hillsboro Schools Foundation (HSF) for the last six years, Bekken has served as president of the nonprofit for the last three.

Hillsboro Schools Foundation raises funds from individuals and large and small businesses in the area that go to support special projects and programs designed by teachers in the Hillsboro School District.

Since 2000, the foundation has awarded about $2.8 million in grants to innovative programs in the school district, from “Something’s Rotten at Tobias” — a grant to start a food waste composting program at Tobias Elementary School — to funds for a musical instrument loaning library for band students who can’t afford rental fees.

The foundation’s efforts have made many programs available to students even during the years of budget reductions within the school district.

Several years ago, Bekken said, the foundation’s leadership decided it was time to “get to the next level.”

“We were very flat in terms of fundraising and giving,” she explained.

Delving into redefining the Hillsboro Schools Foundation’s mission and vision, Bekken said she found one theme that consistently surfaced: community.

Engaging the community, all parts of the community, is the key, Bekken said.

“We know that 70 percent of all private giving comes from individuals, not corporate America,” she said. Knowing that, she reasoned it made sense to reach out to individuals, parent groups, school district alumni and local businesses, to get the message out that students and schools are critically important on many levels.

“I’m old enough to remember when schools were the center of the community,” Bekken said. “What a great thing to rally our community around. It’s so worth investing in.”

And along those lines, the HSF leadership decided that “getting to the next level” included doubling its giving.

“In the past we’ve given about $100,000 a year” to the school district, Bekken said. “Our goal now is $200,000 a year.”

The foundation leadership wanted to do something that would touch every student in the district. To that end, the foundation has committed to help fund the district’s science curriculum rollout by funding STEM kits for each classroom; kits that will give elementary teachers “the ability to provide rich hands-on science lessons,” said HSF development associate Ginny Watson.

HSF has committed donating $45,000 for the kits this year, and will likely do the same for the next two years as the district rolls out a new science curriculum. Each kit costs about $400, and there are 350 classrooms, Watson said. Without the foundation’s help, students might not get the hands-on learning enrichment.

Especially with the current focus on science and engineering careers, “we want to be doing our part,” Watson noted.

The foundation also helps administer grants from companies to schools. Most recently, the foundation announced a $10,000 grant from First Tech Federal Credit Union. Half will go to Glencoe High School for Chromebooks, and half will go to W.L. Henry Elementary for iPads.

“They know we’ll be responsive and responsible,” Bekken said.

The foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year is the annual auction, slated for Feb. 21, 2015, at a new location, Northwest Events & Environments in Hillsboro.

To learn more about HSF’s work, go to

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