Students in Winter Haven and Lake Wales will benefit from a number of grants awarded Monday at the Lake Ashton community. Over $45,000 in cash and $5,000 in gift items were divided among nine schools, who in the words of presenter Sandy Poe, “Think beyond the box.”
In the eight years Lake Ashton has been fund-raising for education, they’ve awarded grants totalling $128,628. A major fund-raiser each year is the Casino Night and Silent Auction sponsored by the Lake Ashton RV Community Benefit Association. Student musicians also contribute to the fund-raising through performances at Lake Ashton, and area businesses and individuals contribute needed items, such as golf carts, as well as cash.
Area educators apply for the grants each year, outlining what the grant will be used for and the amount needed. It is a competitive process and not every request can be filled, said Bob Howardson, president of the RV group. But the resources they have go a long way.
In Lake Wales, Hillcrest Elementary received $7,838; Janie Howard Wilson $6,300; Polk Avenue $8,381; Roosevelt Academy $2,281 and Spook Hill Elementary $4,433.
Lake Ashton is unique in that one of its borders fronts Winter Haven and one fronts Lake Wales; kind of a dual citizenship. So they award grants in both cities. Chain of Lakes Elementary School received $5,681; Hartridge Academy $2,873; Snively Elementary $5,169 and Wahneta Elementary $2,118.
Lisa Myers, principal of Wahneta Elementary, told the audience that her student body was 98 percent reliant on reduced and free lunch subsidies, and money is tight, so the grant money was much appreciated.
The grants are for a wide range of projects. At Hillcrest Elementary, plans are to buy Mac Books, a sound system, a reading program, an electronic dictionary, and some interactive educational games. Roosevelt will purchase math manipulatives from their grant. Chain of Lakes was given a gold cart, for traversing their large campus.
An unexpected bonus was announced at the end of the program: a $25,000 grant from the Easton Foundation to establish archery programs throughout Polk County.
Sandy Poe summed up the residents’ anticipation of the yearly event. “This is like graduation day for us, because it’s the day we get to give out the money.”
Judging from the big smiles in the group photo, it was a good day for educators as well.