Building a foundation for education

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

DEMOPOLIS – Foundation 101, Linking the foundation to the community and Sources of funding and fundraising aren’t courses you would find in a university curriculum.

They are the titles of discussion sessions at the Black Belt Community Foundation School Foundation Summit.

“The Black Belt Community Foundation represents eleven counties and we just added Choctaw,” Felecia Jones, executive director of the BBCF, said. “A lot of these counties either don’t have an existing school foundation or they do and it has been inactive for years.”

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Several of the Black Belt’s school foundations were founded in 1992 or 1993 and have been inactive for more than ten years.

Alabama Power made it possible for many of the foundations to get off the ground with its seed grants for startup purposes and matching donations.

“Education is a thing we want to support,” Carla Roberson, manager of education and volunteer services for Alabama Power said. “Although we don’t do the matching anymore we will find a way to help.”

According to Jones, the purpose of the summit is to find out what the successful foundations are doing well, what the inactive ones are doing wrong and bring them all together to discuss it.

“Some of them aren’t contributing to the community like they should,” Jones said. “This is a meeting of the minds to find out what we can do to help.”

The two-day event was held at the Demopolis University Center Tuesday, September 27 and Wednesday, September 28.

According to Jones, representatives from 14 counties along with community associates showed up for the event.

“There was someone here from each school system and there were people who just want to see better education in their school system,” she said.

Jones said The Demopolis City School Foundation was one of the most productive and active organizations at the summit, so the group allowed visitors to its board meeting Tuesday night to see how it works in such an efficient manner, Jones said.

“After that we had a networking reception where four teachers talked about the impact the Demopolis City Schools Foundation had on them and their students,” she said. “They even read quotes from their students about the foundation.”

Wednesday morning the school district representatives received an 8 a.m. welcome from Jones along with greetings from Dr. Arthur Ogden from the Demopolis University, Mayor Cecil P. Williamson and Carol Zippert, chair of the BBCF.

“Education is the most important piece to attracting economic development,” Williamson said. “I want to be involved in transforming the Black Belt.”

According to Williamson, the participants will walk away with some great knowledge.

“It’s up to us to follow up on them to make sure they are putting it to use,” she said.

Carol Ackers from the Mobile School Foundation in San Diego also talked to participants about why school foundations are necessary.

The keynote speaker was Ginger Hovenic, President/CEO of the Business Roundtable for Education.

“She talked about how to make a school’s foundation work and how to make the whole community join in,” Jones said. “This summit is to give them the stuff make their foundations run.”

Although this is the first time such an event has been organized in the Black Belt, Jones said it won’t be the last because she plans to have another meeting with the participants in three to six months to make sure the foundations are up and running.

“We want to be a catalyst in the community,” Jones said. “They have to set goals before they leave today and we will check up on them.”

Jones would like to thank the Demopolis City Schools Foundation and the City of Demopolis for welcoming the summit and it’s guests. She would also like to thank the program’s sponsors, the Truman Pierce Institute and Alabama Power.

“We love the Black Belt and we are showing them by giving them what they need,” Jones said.

According to her, the BBCF donated $57,150 to communities March 12 and $62,250 on September 9.

“We are not just talking the talk, but we are walking the walk as well.”

Which could be why the program’s motto is “Taking what we have to get what we need.”