Foundation distributes record awards

PHOTO PROVIDED Members of the Keystone Central Foundation pose with a mock check for more than $46,000, representing awards given out this past spring to students of the Keystone Central School District to help them with college, trade school and careers. In front, from left, are Karen Brandt, Lea Ann Plessinger, Ron Bowes, Dr. Richard Stuempfle, Stuart Hall, Angela Harding and Zach Hanna. In back, from left, are Bob Rolley, Karen Probst, Wayne Allison, Kliney Williams, Kelly Hastings, Bob Dwyer, Beth Riccardo and Albert Jones. Missing are Jim Berkebile, Leslie Smith, Steve Turchetta and Jack Peters.

LOCK HAVEN — This fall, dozens of local students have embarked on their post-secondary education and careers, thanks in part to community members, families, organizations and businesses who have established scholarships or awards through the Keystone Central Foundation.

In total, through generous donations and memorials — and in partnership with the school district — the Foundation distributed a total of $46,430 to students, a record for the nonprofit education foundation.

Not included in that amount are thousands of dollars in various scholarships and awards given to worthy students directly from contributors.

The nonprofit currently is administering 60 awards/scholarships on behalf of donors

It also provides awards and thousands of dollars in grants to enhance district students’ education here.

“The Keystone Central Foundation is grateful to all the community members and donors who have established awards and scholarships to assist students at Central Mountain and Bucktail Area High Schools as they embark on their post-secondary careers,” said Karen Brandt, foundation board president. “Each graduation season, the foundation has the honor of presenting these awards to many deserving students whether they are pursuing a two-year college, four-year university or a trade school.”

The Foundation, a 501(c)3, consists of nearly 20 board members representing the community, businesses, the school district and institutions from the region.

Through prudent management with its investment advisor, Wells Fargo Advisors, the Foundation now has assets exceeding $800,000, much of it restricted funds as dictated by donors who set up individual scholarships and awards, mostly as memorials to loved ones, according to Lea Ann Plessinger, foundation treasurer.

“Many of these awards and scholarships are established in memory of loved ones who valued education and our community. The Foundation conveys to the recipients the history of the individual who established these awards. It reminds the students that we are all part of a community committed to their success and I think that is an important message for them to take away,” Brandt explained.

“Education in every community today faces unique and serious challenges. However, students must feel that they have the support of not only their parents and educators, but also the community at large. These awards and the work of the Foundation demonstrates our communities’ commitment to seeing them succeed.”

Since its rebirth in 2002, the Foundation has undertaken a number of initiatives, starting with court approval to manage and invest donations to the district so to grow the amount of money available to help students with their higher education needs. New bylaws were developed to increase community members’ participation on the board of directors, as well as giving representation to teachers, administrators and school board members.

Today, the bylaws allow a total of 25 board members while actual board membership is at 22.

Moreover, the Foundation established a competitive Stars in the Classroom Teachers Mini Grant Program in 2014-2015 to help teachers enhance students’ education.

The mini-grant program grew from one round of grants annually to two rounds per year.

It has funded the purchase of a drone for student research, stability balls for elementary students, an experimental garden, a small nursery for Career and Technical Education students, a 3-D printer, purchase and use of a GoPro video camera, a new program that combines fitness with reading, and bus trips to the Philadelphia Zoo and to Kettle Creek for environmental studies, and more.

Teachers apply for the mini-grants and are awarded funds on a competitive basis, said Bob Dwyer, a retired educator and chair of the Foundation’s Teacher Mini-Grant Program Committee. So far, a total of nearly $10,000 in mini-grants have been awarded. Each applicant is eligible for up to $1,500.

“We encourage teachers to apply. We want them to think out of the box, and many are,” Dwyer said.

More information on the mini-grants can be found at online at

What’s more, a number of years ago, the Foundation established five, $500 annual Senior Project Awards; three at Central Mountain High School and two at Bucktail Area High School.

For example, Brandt said this past year senior Andrea Motter was acknowledged for her work with Sarcoma cancer research. Zachary Neff educated elementary school students at Dickey, Mill Hall and Lock Haven Catholic School about bullying. Abby Foster raised a puppy for the “Seeing Eye Dog Program,” and Rachel Gardner constructed The Frog Pond at the Wayne Township Recreation Area. Mckayla Van Gorder and Anna Berger created a video entitled, “Because of You,” showcasing positive relationships between educators and their students in Keystone.

“These projects represent our students’ commitment to their communities and the Foundation commends them for their hard work,” Brandt said.

This fall, the Foundation is launching a new Special Project Grant Funding Program to further help teachers enhance students’ education. Up to $400 may be awarded to applicants.

Requests will be awarded based on innovation, creativity, educational value, and enrichment benefits of the activity. Funding will not be awarded for technology unless it is tied to curriculum and innovative, or for parties, student incentives, or regular classroom supplies. The purchase of technology is not the main focus of the grant.

And the Foundation has not forgotten a commitment it made long ago to have bricks engraved as memorials, Brandt said.

The Foundation is now moving forward with that initiative as Angela Harding, district communications and fundraising coordinator who serves as liaison with the Foundation, said work is underway to engrave over 70 bricks from donations taken years ago.

The bricks will be laid in front of a special bench to be built along a trail around the wetlands at Central Mountain High School, where state funding already has paid for student-designed and built educational kiosks and a walking path.

In 2009, the Foundation established the LaRue Hinchliffe Outstanding Educator Award to honor a Keystone teacher annually for exemplary service to students, schools and community. Hinchliffe was a long-time educator and guidance counselor at the former Bald Eagle Nittany High School who bequeathed $50,000 to the district.

Foundation board members themselves have established scholarships in memory of loved ones.

Due to donations to the Foundation being tax deductible, KCF also serves as a pass-through for funds, just as it did with construction and continued enhancement of the Don Malinak Stadium and Physical Education Complex, and construction of the Lady Wildcats softball field.

Looking to the future, the Foundation has set its sights on establishing an Alumni and Friends Association to give alumni and supporters an opportunity to inspire students by bringing their expertise back to the classrooms, by participating in fundraising events, presenting scholarships and awards, helping to enhance class reunions and more. The Foundation is actively seeking alumni to join the effort, said Brandt.

The Foundation’s mailing address is P.O. Box 568, Lock Haven, Pa., 17745.

More information can be found online at, or contact a board member or Angela Harding at