Mason Schools Foundation maintains generosity amid pandemic year

Anna Kinasewitz | Staff Writer

In a pandemic year when everyone pressed pause the Mason Schools Foundation (MSF) pressed forward in their efforts to fund innovative learning programs in the Mason City School District.

As the local economy came to a standstill when the Coronavirus shutdown occurred, the foundation still managed to find unique ways to generate funds in order to provide district teachers and staff members with the dollars to provide unique learning experiences to the district’s students. Foundation grant chairperson Mindy Patton wasn’t about to let the constraints of Covid put a damper on the foundations’ mission to empower teachers and students.

“Fundraising was challenging this year, as it was for anything, because a lot of the partners and businesses that are very good supporters are also having a challenging year,” Patton said. “The foundation moved most of its fundraising online. We had an online school supply drive, our annual K-6 reading challenge was online, and we had a virtual gala in the fall.”

With virtual fundraising and an endowment of nearly a million dollars the foundation found itself in a good position to continue funding programs that benefit students throughout the district. By the end of the year Patton believes that MSF grants will add up to over a hundred thousand dollars. 

“So far this year we’ve given $85,000 and will be at $100,000 by the end of the school year,” Patton said. “That represents 30 grants, one of which is a $21,000 grant, The Catalyst Grant, that funds a lot of individual, smaller grants.”

Even though the foundation typically hands out grants at the beginning of the school year, they decided it was important to offer mid year opportunities. They helped fund a therapy dog at Mason Middle School, funded a digital storyteller for online students, and when the high school found itself struggling to find funding for the launch of the Inclusive Excellence Student Leadership team, the foundation stepped in to provide a much needed boost to this new organization. 

“The high school was launching their Inclusive Excellence Student Leadership Team, and they just didn’t have any funding, the district couldn’t stretch any further,” Patton said. “So we put in $4,000, to help that team launch. We tried to be nimble, even during COVID, to respond to those needs that came up through the year.”

Thousands of students in the district have been the beneficiaries of the foundation’s giving. Foundation dollars have helped provide everything from a wheelchair swing at Mason Early Childhood Center, a nature discovery program for  high school students, and even stimulus funds to the Mason High School newspaper The Chronicle when local businesses advertising dollars were impacted by the Covid shutdown.  

The highlights of this past school year give Patton and the MSF hope of the potential that next year’s grants could be even more generous. Thanks to the foundation’s savings efforts, Patton said that she and her colleagues are looking to the future, to where they can “hopefully be even more generous with their grants.” 

“This year, we were delighted to partner with groups trying to maintain their level of excellence, but were hitting a once in a lifetime, unusual year,” Patton said. “I think that’s a neat opportunity for a group like the Mason Schools Foundation to come alongside them and kind of bridge that gap, knowing that they’re going to get back on their feet next year.”

Graphic by The Chronicle Staff