Group plays growing role in Elmbrook success
Ladies' Night raising money for education Nov. 29
"A lot of work goes into this," Beth Dobrzynski said. "It's a great event for a great cause."
Dobrzynski is a special events and volunteer coordinator for the Elmbrook Education Foundation. She is getting ready for the organization's eighth annual Ladies' Night fundraiser, to be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at Westmoor Country Club. There are plenty of details to tend to, she said, including the live and silent auction, and refreshments.
Her enthusiasm is typical of the foundation, which holds events throughout the year and champions the cause of making the Elmbrook School District the best it can be.
The foundation's goals and objectives are proof that strong educational systems are supported by more than tax dollars.
Its roots date to 1958, when the foundation provided scholarships to high-achieving students. Now, the organization serves as an umbrella of individual school fund drives.
Serving to protect
Foundation officials said they have bigger plans to protect the district's reputation for quality.
Executive Director Laura Schmidt said events like Ladies' Night have been successful.
"We have seen an increase every year," she said. "Last year, our biggest, raised $27,000. Now, private schools that do events can bring in larger amounts, but as a public school that is receiving tax dollars, we do very well.
"It's truly an indication that our community is supporting our schools."
She noted that individual booster clubs also offer an opportunity for parents and others to be engaged in their schools and raise money for specific causes.
"We are successful because of volunteers like Beth and others who really go the extra mile to help us put together events and other programs," she said, pointing out that the foundation has a list of funds. "Our goal, of course is to never touch principal and keep those funds increasing."
Plans to expand
Schmidt and Foundation Board President David Frank said the EEF is gearing up to become even more important in light of reduced state funding.
"There are a lot of challenges in education right now," Schmidt said. "We can help in ways that will lessen the impact of state funding and other things that could impact the quality of our schools. I honestly believe that."
Frank said the foundation is evolving naturally.
"We've always been a scholarship and grant foundation," he said. "As we began to see schools facing more and more financial difficulty in the coming years, we began considering if there was a way to be more active and to set some ideas and goals. We want to communicate what an Elmbrook education means."
He said establishing a major endowment is the centerpiece of meeting those goals.
"We want to be able to provide significant overall gifts to the district," he added. "We want to be able to fund innovation and emphasize that type of impact along with supporting the individual boosters who are enthusiastic and do wonderful things for their schools. For example, there are some amazing technology initiatives in our schools, and we want to keep that going."
Frank noted that his organization can go even further, if needed.
"We haven't tackled programming or specific curriculum like foreign language, art or music," he said. "If that is what is needed in the future, we would be happy to partner with parents and others to maintain and even grow those types of programs."
Path to success
Frank said the secret to the Elmbrook Education Foundation's success is involvement. And he said that involvement includes tough discussions like the recent closing of Hillside Elementary and the redistricting plan.
"I started like a lot of people," he said. "I went to events, got to know people and was asked to join a committee.
"We have a lot of different opinions across the community about whether schools should be closed or how districts are drawn, but we do agree that our schools should continue to be great places to learn."
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