2010-10-20 / Front Page

Foundation’s fundraising efforts off to good start

New organization was founded to provide opportunities in Manalapan-Englishtown K-8
BY AMY ROSEN Staff Writer
With reductions to school funding resulting in cutbacks to many school programs, the Foundation for Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools (MERS), in its inaugural year, has been working diligently to raise funds to offer students much-needed support.

Foundation officials said about $50,000 more is now available to support the students directly because of the efforts of the foundation members and the generosity of community members.

Education foundations typically host fundraisers during the school year to gather a pool of money that is eventually awarded to teachers and other district staff members in the form of grants. The grants generally fund supplies or programs that are not covered in the school district’s regular budget.

Unlike some educational foundations that require applications for grant money to be submitted at a specific time during the year, the Foundation for MERS offers an ongoing grant process for teachers and staff members so they may apply for funding throughout the school year.

Successful fundraisers accomplished in the short time since the Foundation for MERS began soliciting donations in April have, so far, included a parent appeal letter; a teacher certificate fundraiser where a $10 donation from a child resulted in his or her favorite teacher being presented with a certificate from that child; and a golf outing, dinner and auction, recently held at Knob Hill Golf Club, Manalapan.

In addition to funds raised at the golf outing, the foundation was recently awarded a grant in the amount of $25,000 from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.

Barry Tobias, vice president of the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and a resident of Manalapan, read an article about the formation of the Foundation for MERS in the News Transcript in June and contacted Pat Berger, president of the Foundation for MERS, to find out more about the organization.

According to Berger, Tobias determined that the Foundation for MERS could benefit from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation’s charitable endeavors and advised Berger to apply for a grant. The grant money was awarded and designated to support children in need who want to take part in school performing arts programs for which a participation fee is charged.

A $100 fee is charged to Manalapan- Englishtown pupils who want to receive instrumental music instruction in the fourth through eighth grades, and a $50 fee is charged for sixth- through eighth-grade students who want to participate in choir. Instrumental music lessons are offered during school on a pull-out basis and reinforced during before- or after-school band practice. Choir practice is held before or after school. Seventh- and eighth-grade students who want to participate in the Manalapan EnglishtownMiddle School’s (MEMS) musical play must also pay a $50 fee.

Berger said, “Part of our mission is to have community involvement, and this is a perfect example of that. The community newspaper (the News Transcript) printed an article about the foundation, a member from the community saw the article, and now we have a $25,000 grant to help the schools. It’s terrific and we are so grateful to the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation for supporting our students.”

Tobias said, “The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation is a significant donor to educational institutions in the tri-state area. It supports a well-rounded education — not just reading, writing and arithmetic. That’s why it supports the arts. I was delighted to learn there was a foundation, the Foundation for Manalapan Englishtown Regional Schools. It is the perfect conduit to get the money to the schools to implement the programs in the appropriate way.”

Berger announced at a recent meeting of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education that the $25,000 grant money was used to set up the Peter Jay Sharp Opportunity Fund for Performing Arts. It is divided into three categories.

The “New Players Initiative” program will award a $75 scholarship to students in need to help offset the $100 fee being charged to fourth- and fifth-grade pupils for instrumental music lessons at the beginner level. The goal of this program is to encourage younger students to participate in the instrumental music program. To apply, students must submit an essay explaining why they would like to receive the scholarship.

The “Play That Tune” program is available to students currently receiving free or reduced-price lunch in grades four through eight who would like to participate in the instrumental music program. The scholarship will cover the $100 program fee as well as the cost of the instrument rental. The students do not have to be beginners.

The “Take the Stage” program is available to Pine Brook School (grade 6) and MEMS (grades 7 and 8) students currently receiving free or reduced-price lunch who would like to participate in their school’s chorus, as well as those who would like to participate in the MEMS musical play. It will cover the cost of the $50 activity fee currently being charged for those activities. It should be noted that in the case of the MEMS musical, awarding of the scholarship would be pending acceptance into the play after passing a required audition.

“The grant from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation will benefit the students of the district as it will provide students in grades four through eight with greater opportunities to explore the fundamentals of playing an instrument and to participate within other areas related to performance arts,” said Jodi Klask, the district’s supervisor of music and assistant principal at Lafayette Mills School. “Instrumental music, chorus, and participation in the musical provide students opportunities to broaden their academic and social development.”

In addition to Berger, the Foundation for MERS officers are Jennifer Feinerman, vice president; Gail Bonus, secretary; and Ralph Loggia, treasurer. Trustees are Joseph Bulger, Brian Greene, Roy Leitstein, Maria Mallamaci, Deborah Privetera and Kati Radman. Nonvoting members of the foundation’s board are school board members Brian Graime and Lori Semel, and Superintendent of Schools John J. Marciante Jr.

“I am pleased to have such a wonderful board of trustees who have given their time,” said Berger.

She said the board is currently working on ideas for future fundraisers and added that several spots are open for those who would like to serve on the board. Volunteer opportunities are always available for fundraisers as well.

Feinerman said, “As a working parent, from my perspective, the foundation in general is a great way for a lot of working parents who aren’t able to spend a lot of time in their children’s schools to be able to be involved and make an impact on our children’s education and be able to give back … The grant from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation itself is amazing and will help to provide an eye-opener for the community to see how a few people getting together and putting their minds to things can impact hundreds of children and build a legacy of helping children for years to come.”

Berger added, “The Foundation for MERS would also like to thank all the local businesses and sponsors who helped make the golf outing such a huge success. We look forward to working with the community to enhance the education of the students in the Manalapan- Englishtown Regional School District.”

Marciante said, “I think the foundation has had an excellent start and I look forward to continuing to work with it. I think that in the financial times we are living in, the funding supplied by the foundation is going to really help us maintain the quality of education that everyone has come to expect in (the district). It allows us to allocate funds in other areas and at the same time lets us maintain certain things.

“I think the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation really wants to expand the arts to families in need because frequently those families are unable to expose their children because of financial reasons. By letting them know about these scholarships, we may have more children involved in the music program than we have had before. I really think it helps the community members. A lot of people are struggling. I think the scholarship opportunity for those just starting lessons is a great idea. Pat Berger has done a wonderful job. I think she has created a foundation that is going to last and I am very happy about it

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