Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Initiative seeks funds for schools

Warren County group looks to new sources

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CENTERVILLE — With donated office space, a new president and a heap of spirit, a Warren County charitable foundation is ready to start raising money for the county's eight public school districts and one vocational school district.

        Scholarships of $100 or more should be available to each of the districts this school year, said Rick Wood, the Warren County Educational Foundation's planned giving director.

        “This is absolutely wonderful,” said Little Miami Superintendent Ralph Shell. “Anytime a student can get a scholarship is advantageous because education is expensive.”

        How the foundation came together is a tale of serendipity.

        Sharon Jewell, president of the Wayne Local school board and a board member at the Warren County Career Center - the county's vocational school district - learned about alternative education funding years ago after attending a conference on that topic.

        Ms. Jewell presented the idea to the career center board. She also took her newfound knowledge to several educators and Mr. Wood, with whom she works at STL Financial, a consulting firm.

        Matthew Gilmartin, an attorney in the same building as STL Financial, attended that meeting. Mr. Gilmartin's private practice deals mostly in estate planning.

        Along with the superintendent of the Warren County Career Center, they decided to establish a schools foundation for the six public districts the career center rep resents and the two other public school districts in the county, said Peg Allen, career center spokeswoman.

        “We want to educate people on alternative ways of supporting school districts” other than through property taxes, Mr. Wood said. “And we want to show people how to ... reduce their taxes and still maximize their retirement income, but also help a charity of their choice.”

        The foundation, which incorporated as a nonprofit in January, is working under the umbrella of the Warren County Foundation.

        Mr. Wood, a Lebanon High School and Warren County Career Center graduate, is donating office space in a Centerville building (in nearby Montgomery County) where his consulting firm is located. He plans to have phone lines installed for the foundation Thursday.

        The Warren County Educational Foundation board recently named Mr. Gilmartin of Dayton, Ohio, as president of the foundation. Mr. Gilmartin has taken on the task free of charge.

        They plan to start applying for federal grants soon, Mr. Wood said.


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