By Jennie Zeitler
A Holdingford alumnus frustrated with the low amount of scholarships given to graduates is working to grow a larger endowment.
“Bob Warzecha said, ‘We can do better’ and in about May he started to birddog folks in the area,” said Supt. Eric Williams. “He and other people began talking about how we could grow an endowment fund that would provide substantial scholarships.”
Warzecha and Margaret Vos have done the heavy lifting, Williams said.
“They really took the bull by the horns and started looking at and talking to two school districts with substantial endowments that spin off thousands of dollars in scholarships every year,” he said.
Luverne has a $2.5 million endowment, and Warroad has a large fund as well.
“Over a period of 29 years, Luverne Dollars for Scholars has awarded more than $2.38 million to nearly 1,468 LHS graduates,” said Dollars for Scholars President Don Klosterbuer.
Holdingford’s enrollment has been steady at about 1,000 for at least 12 years.
“This stability creates ‘stickiness’ with parents, a commitment to the school,” said Williams. “A lot of people take great pride in Holdingford School District. There is a lot of potential to create one of the largest endowments in the state.”
Matt Kilian of the Initiative Foundation assisted the district on growing the fund.
“He told us if we had a $1 million endowment, we could create a substantial scholarship for each student who graduates with the intent of pursuing post-secondary opportunities,” Williams said.
“As a partner with Holdingford, the Initiative Foundation can accept non-cash gifts that can provide more significant tax advantages for the donors,” Kilian said.
The endowment kickoff was announced before the singing of the National Anthem at Holdingford’s homecoming game against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Sept. 27.
The highlight of the event was Warzecha’s announcement of the news that a grassroots campaign of community members, alumni and local business owners had already generated more then $113,000 in just a few months.
“Bob went on to say that the goal of the endowment is to raise $3.5 million with the intention of providing scholarships for every Holdingford graduate who continues their education,” said Williams.
“Everyone has to have a long-term vision for where to take something like this and they’re thinking big,” Kilian said. “It’s all being developed and fundraising efforts are starting strong. Homecoming was a wonderful time for the community to hear the message and that a significant amount of contributions are already in the door.
“It’s a permanent fund,” he added. “Generations of graduates will benefit from it.”
One goal of the fund is to ultimately provide scholarships to each graduate for four years.
“All the feedback we’d received from the community was exceptionally positive,” Kilian said. “It was fun to be part of the homecoming announcement and to see the looks on everyone’s faces.”
“People donating to the scholarship fund are building community,” Warzecha said. “It’s a brain gain for the community.”
The district is establishing an advisory board for the endowment made up of Warzecha, Vos and five other community members yet to be announced.
“This is what people in small towns do to support each other,” said Williams. “It’s a lot of (Bob’s) energy behind this.”