It takes a village to support a school, and it takes a school to unite the village.
The synergistic relationship between the Perham school district and the community is never more evident than in the springtime-when the "Honey Bee Gala" banquet celebrates the many investments in youth, school and community.
Teachers, volunteers, students and community supporters-all of them Perham Yellowjackets at heart-are honored at the 549 Family Foundation event.
It was a bittersweet evening for Jo Strege, as it was her last official duty as coordinator of 549 Family. In her seven years in the position, the foundation has raised tens of thousands of dollars-and donated tens of thousands of dollars to school programs ranging from choir trips to New York City, to grade school journeys to Itasca State Park. For school year 2009-10 alone, the foundation has granted over $12,000 to date, said Strege.
"This has been my baby...I've watched it stumble, fall and walk," said Strege in her closing remarks March 27 in the Lakeside Golf Course banquet room. "I'm having a really hard separation issue."
Though she is stepping down as coordinator, she will continue as president of the foundation board. Under the new structure, board members and volunteers will be picking up the tasks of the coordinator.
"The foundation is in very good hands," said Strege. "We have a legacy to leave as a foundation...we all want to see it grow and continue."
It didn't take long for 549 Foundation to experience a rapid growth spurt.
Near the end of the banquet, the call went out for donations to the foundation's endowment fund. With auctioneer Kim Fladeboe Anderson appealing to the audience, more than $7,500 was raised in a matter of minutes-in $1,000, $500, $250 and $200 pledges from the audience.
Now approaching $20,000, the endowment money "will not be touched, until it has babies," laughed Strege. Only the interest earned will be tapped for future donations to the school, explained Strege.
A silent auction, live auction and raffle also raised nearly $5,000 for the foundation.
"Beat the math guys" poker night at Zorbaz was one of the unique live auction items. Up to nine players will challenge the Perham High School math department in a night of poker, with Zorbaz providing the food. "Math teachers...are tough to beat-numbers are their game," stated the auction description. Craig Swanson won the bidding, at $450.
The community's giving spirit to the school district doesn't go unappreciated by the students who benefit from the contributions.
"I'm so impressed with everybody's generosity," said Perham High School Student Council President Becca Huebsch, who served as Emcee. "It really means a lot to us."
Equally grateful for the 549 Family are school staff and administrators.
"We're extremely thankful for the foundation," said Superintendent Tamara Uselman.
"There is so much right with public education now," said Uselman, adding that the foundation helps the school "improve society one child at a time."