Scholarship foundation surpasses 40 years, $1 million in educational awards
Forty years. One-million dollars. Both are milestones the Forest Lake Area Community Scholarship Foundation celebrated last Thursday.
A crowd numbering over 100 turned out for a breakfast banquet full of laughs and touching moments at Vannelli’s by the Lake.
A well-rounded lineup of speakers highlighted the 90-minute program by providing insight from all aspects of the scholarship process.
Dr. Lee Sinna, CSF board president, let the numbers speak for themselves: The non-profit organization awards over 100 of the approximately 160 annual scholarship applicants, he said. CSF, in its 40th year, crossed the $1-million threshold in total gifting. That impressive is fueled by approximately 200 donations a year totaling near $85,000.
Sinna discouraged the many donors in attendance from resting on their laurels.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the need for a well-educated and well-trained citizenry has never been greater,” he said. “The ability to provide the financing for the requisite training and education has never experienced a more challenging environment.”
Forest Lake Schools Superintendent Linda Madsen echoed the challenges existing outside of classroom walls, noting that the percentage of students in the district’s free/reduced lunch program has spiked from 11 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2012. In such an environment, Madsen said, education becomes even more valuable.
“It really is no longer an option to end your formal learning at high school and expect to get a job that can financially sustain you,” she said. “More is needed. It should be no surprise, then, that with more students attending post-secondary programs, that more are in need of financial support.”
Keynote speaker and longtime CSF donor Gene Hallberg knows a thing or two about financial support. His family’s foundation, which sponsored the banquet, has funded countless good causes in the area over many years. The founder of Wyoming’s Hallberg Marine touted the benefits – both esoteric and from a legal perspective – of disbursing wealth through a foundation.
“It’s been really, really a rewarding time. Don’t be away to give away what you have…You need to give and you need to help other people and you need to give back to the community. You need to help those in need.”
The scholarship foundation was founded in 1973 by former Forest Lake Times publisher Duane A. Rasmussen and high school guidance counselor Virgil Grove, along with other educators from the high school. It has come a long way since that first year, when the fledgling organization failed to produce a single scholarship.
This day and age, CSF attracts a high volume of donations and scholarship requests, and a sophisticated system is in place to ensure that assets are maximized. Every dollar that comes in is given out for college, vocational or trade school tuition. In addition to one-time donations, CSF currently monitors the investments of 10 endowments and oversees the disbursement of 41 named scholarships.
On the other end, about a dozen volunteers review each application. The entire process, from application to scoring to awarding, is streamlined electronically thanks to a $25,000 grant from Wells Fargo that was matched this year thanks in large part to the Forest Lake Rotary Club.
CSF raises extra funds through two annual events. The Pat Cheyne Memorial Golf Fundraiser is held in the fall and honors the legacy of a longtime Forest Lake teacher and coach. This year, the outing raised over $10,000. Each spring, local businesses help collect funds from the public through a dollar drive.
Donations and scholarship applications are accepted year-round. See www.flacsf.org for more information.