Zeeland Education Foundation
Legacy Fund for Zeeland Public Schools
2016 marks the 10th anniversary for the Zeeland Education Foundation. The Zeeland Education Foundation (ZEF) arose out of a need for program funding above and beyond what’s included annually in Zeeland Public Schools (ZPS) curriculum budgets.
“We want to enhance and ensure ZPS’s academic excellence long into the future, to be able to step in to provide those needed extras when budget cuts occur, or when an infusion of outside funding can make a real difference,” said Tom Den Herder, President of ZEF’s Board of Directors.
In 2006, ZEF established the Zeeland Public Schools Education Foundation Legacy Fund, a nonprofit endowment fund at the Community Foundation.
“Tom and former ZPS Superintendent Gary Feenstra helped us recognize how critically important it was for us to have a permanent endowment right from the very beginning. For us, it’s not just about annual fundraising, it’s about having both the checking and savings account to ensure the future,” noted Wendy Rebhan, Executive Director.
“Zeeland Public Schools has always been a destination district, and our endowment fund is a means to ensure that it stays that way for generations to come.”
Over the past ten years, they’ve made a big impact, granting over $250,000 to ZPS.
Funding highlights at the high school level include providing the dollars needed to purchase video production and broadcasting equipment, as well as two 3-D printers in 2013 and 2014, which are used for cutting-edge technology education and art education.
At the middle school and elementary level, funding highlights include helping launch the K-2 Phonics First program, K-5 Summer Stretch academic program, Spanish Immersion program, and the K-12 complete speech Smart Palate program. ZEF funded the computer equipment for the palate program, and Zeeland Family Dentistry donates time to create individualized mouth bites for students who utilize the program, which provides needed personalized speech therapy.
“Partnering with the Community Foundation was a natural fit for us because it’s forever a part of our community,” said Den Herder.
“There’s no question about that. ZEF board members change, people move, but the Foundation will always be here to support ZEF and its work. We wanted consistency and couldn’t have done that alone. We needed a partner that could help manage our endowment as a sustainable, perpetual funding source.”
The goal that drives ZEF’s efforts is to “defy adequate, to go above and beyond.” “When we meet with others around the state, they see what we’ve done as visionary and aspirational. A lot of that credit goes to launching our legacy fund at our inception, because it’s made all the difference. It’s about what’s best for ZPS long term,” said Rebhan. “We’ve put just as much effort into growing our Legacy Fund as our Direct Impact Fund — and that’s what sets us apart.”
Ultimately, ZEF would like their Legacy Fund to generate over $100,000 annually for the district, and recently have launched an exciting effort to double the size of the fund, from $600,000 to 1.2 million.
“Doubling our Legacy Fund to $1.2 million would generate the dollars needed to achieve our goals for years to come,” noted Den Herder.
“We’re going to work hard to get this fund to the next level, to help ZPS go above and beyond basic curriculum budgets, giving kids an academic boost that will launch them into life,” said Rebhan. “Gifts to our Legacy Fund truly make quality public education a lifetime gift.”
Originally featured in the Community Foundation’s 2015 Annual Report. While this was written by CFHZ’s Communications Manager Nicole Paquette in 2016, we believe that stories of generosity are timeless and always relevant.