Students in need of clothing, shoes, personal hygiene items, transportation and other basic support will be the beneficiaries of a $25,000 grant awarded to the La Crosse Public Education Foundation (LPEF) by the Robert & Eleanor Franke Charitable Fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation.
Robert Franke, who died in 2009, and Eleanor, who died in 2001, left a charitable legacy to La Crosse with a goal of helping individuals meet their basic needs.
The grant approved Nov. 14 by the La Crosse Community Foundation will address those basic needs for students in the School District of La Crosse through support for the LPEF Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) program.
“Our board of directors was thrilled to honor Robert and Eleanor Franke’s legacy by providing support to LPEF’s Random Acts of Kindness program; a critical program for students in our community who need it most” said La Crosse Community Foundation’s Executive Director Jamie Schloegel.
The RAK program goal is to address student needs that create obstacles to attendance, self-esteem and academic success. RAK allows economically disadvantaged students to focus on school and stay in school. Completing school with basic skills makes it more likely for students to get jobs, and to break the cycle of poverty thereby enriching the quality of their lives, and life in the greater La Crosse area.
“Schools use RAK funds to just let kids be kids,” said LPEF Board President Angela Strangman. “This beautiful gift from the Community Foundation will help countless students enjoy and succeed in school, and is a perfect testament to the Frankes.”
For the past 20 years, LPEF has been providing RAK funds to the 14 District K-12 schools so that staff are able to provide funds at a student’s time of need; they see a need, they write a check. The need is growing for RAK funds: there has been a 44% increase in spending over the last two years, with increased usage in the middle and high schools.
Total spending last school year reached $29,300, but grants and designated donations from individual donors cover only a portion of the total – meaning LPEF has to cover the added cost through general fundraising. The grant from the Franke Fund will allow LPEF to sustain the growth in demand for RAK funds while also continuing to improve other programs, such as grants to teachers to encourage innovation in classrooms.
In the 2017-18 school year:
- 40% of RAK funds were spent on personal needs of students, such as food, clothing, personal health care, glasses, hygiene products and special needs like graduation gowns.
- 47% of RAK funds were spent on individual transportation, such as taxis to Parent/Teacher Conferences, bus passes, and field trip expenses. Field trip expenses are especially important to fund so that no student is left in the classroom when the bus drives away to go to an outside learning experience. Many families cannot afford to pay for field trip expenses after paying for basic family needs such as food and rent.
- The remaining 13% was spent on academic or co-curricular support, such as school supplies, pre-college testing and other academic experiences.