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Leading Locally: Willard Children’s Charitable Foundation

The Willard Children’s Charitable Foundation serves kids — and those who lead them — within the town for which it’s named, but its influence goes far beyond the city limits.

Affiliate foundations

Serving school-related causes

With a wide footprint, more than 4,500 students and ten schools within its boundaries, Willard Public Schools has a lot of ground to cover in terms of education — but also, in meeting the unique needs of the kids it serves.

A form of support comes through the Willard Children’s Charitable Foundation, which has distributed more than $699,326 in grants to the community. It was founded in 2005 and is one of 54 affiliates of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

“We’re a small town with a big school,” says Dr. Eric Wilken, superintendent of Willard Public Schools and a board member of the WCCF. “Half our kids, we like to say, live south of I-44. They live in Springfield, and half our kids are kind of more rural.”

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Willard is a community of about 6,300 residents in Greene County — and draws students from beyond the town's boundaries.

The foundation serves needs in a variety of ways, one of which is through biannual classroom grants. This program allows teachers to apply for supplemental funding for projects that enhance the learning experience.

“It’s just really neat to see the kids get excited when we go give grants,” says Brandi Delleville, president of the WCCF, who shares the enthusiasm she witnessed during a recent grant presentation. “These little kids come running out, and they’re so excited. They’re like, ‘Oh, we can have a greenhouse. We’re going to have chickens.’

"They were so excited.”

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Willard is a stop on the Frisco Highline Trail, which connects Springfield to Bolivar.

Other examples of support include the school’s robotic telepresence system for chronically ill students and support for Laura’s House, a transitional living group home for young women exiting the foster care system. Working closely with the district’s social worker and with partners like Care to Learn also allows opportunities for kids who need additional support throughout the year.

“I see it every day with the students, especially with those immediate needs — they need an eye exam, or they there’s a specific medical thing that insurance is going to cover in six months, but the kid needs it right now,” says Rachel Griffin, a Willard teacher and WCCF board member, of examples of how the foundation helps the schools. “I see it in the classrooms where they have these hands-on activities and large things that maybe they wouldn’t have had, had we not been able to do the funds.”

While the WCCF primarily focuses on needs of teachers, students and schools, it also collaborates with community partners when needs align with the foundation’s mission. An example is the Better Together Playground, an inclusive park for which ground will soon be broken in Willard. As one of several partners, the WCCF contributed $10,000 to the project.

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The Willard Children’s Charitable Foundation's work includes grants for teachers within the district.

The board also supports 10 scholarship funds that benefit local students pursuing training after high school graduation and looks to support students with a wide spectrum of future plans.

“We aren’t tied to a lot of criteria,” says Sara Towry, WCCF board secretary and administrative assistant to the superintendent. “Our scholarship committee reads those essays and looks for the heart. In this community, like there’s been multiple times when they’ve known what that kid has overcome and been able to give them that opportunity. So that always makes a big difference.”

Looking ahead: Increased awareness and support

One thing that pleases WCCF leaders is how support affects many of the district’s schools. Increasing awareness of opportunities for funding is always a goal, as is finding new ways to connect with the community.

“One thing that I love is that we tend to be able to hit every building and almost every subject,” Griffin says. “We’ve covered so much reading and math, and sciences, and then even other things that aren’t necessarily your four core subjects. It’s cool that it’s not been the same teacher from the same building every year. I love that it’s been spread out throughout the district.”

The WCCF is also working in new ways to raise funds for its efforts. An example is a partnership for the annual Motor Extravaganza with the Willard Masonic Lodge AF&AM. In exchange for helping work at the show, WCCF benefits by receiving its proceeds, which are matched by the Masons’ national organization.

“They’ve given it to us to disperse for health, hygiene and hunger needs,” Towry says. “They’ve paid off school lunch balances, things like that, through us.”

In their own words

Why do you serve?

“No matter what community you’re in, your heart is your school. It’s meaningful to be able to be involved, and to give back to the school as a whole. Because it’s not just the teachers. It’s not just the kids. It’s everybody involved in our school and our community that this is impacting in some way.”
— Rachel Griffin, WCCF board member

“I think it’s just a great opportunity to make sure your community is as good as it can be.”
—Sara Towry, WCCF board secretary

“Seeing the individual expressions when we hand out the grants. There’s been several times when teachers have been crying when they receive them. The emotion is coming from the teacher, but it’s also coming from the kids they know it’s going to be impacting, and I think that’s cool.”
—Dr. Eric Wilken, WCCF board member

“We moved to Willard, my kids go to school in Willard, and I wanted to be a part of something that directly impacted our kids and community.”
—Brandi Delleville, WCCF board member

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