Scholarship graduation cap on cash

With the year’s end rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to review your donation philosophy. What causes are near and dear to your heart? How do you want to make a difference?

On Tuesday, Hutchinson voters went to the polls to voice their opinion on Hutchinson Public Schools plan to spend $28.8 million renovating Park and West Elementary buildings. Remarkably, it passed the first time it was put before the public.

What this tells me is that Hutchinson voters want the best for their kids. Education is important.

If education and supporting students fits with your giving philosophy, one of the best ways to do this is through Hutchinson High School Dollars for Scholars.

The organization maintains a relatively low profile, but it’s always working on behalf of HHS students and past graduates. Fundraising is ongoing with the group, which makes its annual splash in May at the Senior Honors and Awards Program.

Earlier this year, Dollars for Scholars awarded 87 scholarships to 78 students for a total of $60,350. According to Steve Kropp, president, scholarships range from a minimum of $250 to a maximum of $5,000, with most in the $250 to $1,000 range.

My friend, the late Jay Beytien, would be so proud. Among his proudest achievements, he said, was Dollars for Scholars.

The organization started in Hutchinson in 1978. The idea for it came from Bob Stearns, businessman and community booster, who read a Reader’s Digest article about the National Citizens Scholarship Foundation.

The first year, the committee — with Beytien serving as president — raised enough money to give out 26 scholarships for a total of $4,350. The volunteer-driven nonprofit was off and running and hasn’t stopped since.

Kropp has headed up the organization for the past three years, taking on the leadership position from Dave Maher, who served as president for many years. After serving with the Hutchinson Jaycees, Kropp was looking for a way to give back. With two children in Hutchinson Public Schools, Dollars for Scholars was a good fit. His wife, Chanda, serves on the board, so it has become a family affair.

While fundraising is year-round, Kropp said it’s front and center from October through March, with current year scholarship donations due April 15. Thanks to the generosity of the community, the scholarship organization has a nice nest egg. Money comes to it in a variety of ways ranging from endowments and planned giving to gifts from former students, individuals, local businesses, clubs and organizations.

“We have very consistent giving,” Kropp said. “Donors can be as involved as much as they want to be. Most are hands-off, but some present their own scholarships.”

If you think you have to have the big bucks to be a donor, think again. Dollars for Scholars presents an excellent giving opportunity for anyone who cares about the value of a quality education. One doesn’t have to contribute several hundred dollars to support the organization. Donations of less than $250 are combined with other donations and presented as a scholarship from a general fund.

Want to remember a loved one who has died? Consider establishing a memorial scholarship. It’s a way to pay tribute and do some good at the same time.

While many students who receive Dollars for Scholars money leave Hutchinson to attend college, they come back to their hometown after completing their education. They bring back their knowledge and invest it in our community. It’s a positive case of what goes around comes around. We all benefit.

APPLICATION PROCESS

Hutchinson High School students and past graduates are encouraged to apply for Dollars for Scholars monetary awards. To do so, they can meet with a school counselor and fill out an online application. The applications are scored by the local chapter of Dollars for Scholars.

“Applications are numbered, so they are anonymous,” Kropp said. “It’s blind scoring with no bias. We don’t know who the students are.”

After scoring, the group assigns scholarships based on each application’s score and financial need.

“We want kids at all grade points to apply,” he said.

Remarkably, some scholarships go unclaimed. Kropp said they reach out to the parents and students, but every year there are a few that aren’t picked up. In those cases, the money is funneled back into the general fund for future use.

“It’s a good way to give back,” Kropp said. “You can feel good. It’s a tax write-off and 100 percent of the money goes to support kids.”

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