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All school districts need the support of their communities to provide the best possible learning experiences and environments for their students and staff members. Now, the Louisa-Muscatine Community School District (L&M) has a new outlet to help them harness the generosity of their communities and make positive changes to their district, the Louisa-Muscatine Foundation (L&M Foundation).
Emily MacEachern, the secretary-treasurer of the newly formed L&M Foundation stated that L&M Superintendent Mike Van Sickle came up with the idea for the foundation. MacEachern explained that, “a lot of other schools are going towards having foundations, and it’s a really good resource to have. Foundations can do things school districts can’t.” Van Sickle noticed this trend, and believed creating a foundation for L&M could provide major benefits.
Specifically, foundations have financial flexibility that school districts do not. While school districts must use the funds they receive according to formulas set by the State of Iowa, foundations have no such obligations. Instead, they may allocate funds to whatever projects their board approves, allowing them to support projects L&M may not have the ability to put a lot of money into.
Additionally, MacEachern believes the L&M Foundation can help unite all of those who want to help L&M by giving them one single group to rally behind. L&M’s draws students from Cranston, Fruitland, Grandview, Letts, and Muscatine. However, it does not have its campus in any of those cities, but instead occupies a somewhat centrally located area in rural Louisa County. Finding a way to unify the support of all the people in its district presents a challenge. By creating the L&M Foundation and by emphasizing its ability to help all students in the district, MacEachern hopes it will become a rallying point to bring donations and volunteer support together in one place.
To make Van Sickle’s vision for the L&M Foundation into a reality, Van Sickle personally invited a group of professionals in various fields who had experience with L&M and a passion for helping its schools to join the L&M Foundation’s board. This group includes Jill Hoben as the L&M Foundation’s president, Jeff Bohling as the vice president, McEachern as the secretary-treasurer, and Angie Johnson, Jennifer Lerner, Jake Neels, Troy Pugh, and Jason Randall as board members. The group also approached the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine to become one of its members. This allowed the L&M Foundation to become a 501 (c)(3) charity without having to incorporate on their own. With these preparations in place, the L&M Foundation poised itself to begin making a tremendous difference in L&M’s schools.
The L&M Foundation now looks to begin setting goals for itself and to start raising money to support those goals. As a 501 (c)(3) charity, donors can recieve tax deductions for all their contributions to the L&M Foundation. If you would like to donate, they request you make your check out to the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, and write Louisa-Muscatine Foundation on the subject line.
Because the L&M Foundation wants to involve the community into their work, they will use feedback from teachers, students, and community members to help them to decide on their projects. Currently, the L&M Foundation has created a survey (available at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe0N5B8WvxIXkgK9jVCs-c6doum88fZxICegRgGaXyDReQgBA/viewform) to share with these stakeholders to help them decide on a short term project costing $50,000 or less as well as a longer term, more expensive project. Projects many include any needs the community considers important, including building updates, furniture replacement, teaching supplies and materials, sponsoring guest speaker series or field trips, replacing textbooks, and many other possibilities. The L&M foundation hopes to release plans for both projects in the near future, once they have received enough community feedback to make informed decisions, and to begin work on their smaller project fairly soon.
MacEachern, along with the members of the L&M Foundation board have high hopes for the group’s future. “I think it is a great, great thing for our schools that we have people willing to put this much time and effort into our district,” MacEachern shared. With their careful planning and the growing support of L&M’s contributing communities, the L&M Foundation appears poised to bring even greater cohesion to their district and harness it to do incredible things. The L&M Foundation will surely have a positive impact and offer valuable support to the district now and many years into the future.

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