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Steamboat Magazine

Cookies For Cash

12/01/2011 01:00AM ● By Kelly Silva Stahl

Cookies For Cash - Schools Institute Challenge Fund

by Kelly Silva Stahl

The pumpkin pies and cookies will have to be homemade this year as Steamboat Springs’ elementary schools replace their usual fundraisers with tax-deductible donations. As a result of school budget cuts and the need for competitive education beyond the basics, a group of proactive parents created the Challenge Fund to increase contributions and prepare students for skills needed in the 21st century. “The budget process last year was all about ‘where do we cut expenses?’ We wanted to change the conversation to ‘how do we improve our schools?’” says Sam Jones, founder of the Challenge Fund. Undoubtedly, kids and parents are issuing a collective sigh of relief. Sam says parents felt obliged to buy everything from magazines to wrapping paper while the schools received only a fraction of the revenue. “Parents have said loud and clear they would rather just write a check,” he says. Sam expects the Challenge Fund will bring in five times more money that the students’ typical fundraising efforts. 

The annual goal is $100,000 – distributed equally to Soda Creek and Strawberry Park Elementary schools annually. The committee hopes to see 100 percent participation from students, with matching funds from local businesses. Funds are collected through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, Every household that donates to the fund will have “Three Wishes” to suggest where they’d like to see money spent. A committee of parents and school representatives will determine how the funds are allocated. Is a new teacher to bring down class sizes the best use of funds, or do kids need to connect with students in China to broaden their understanding of globalization? Either way, it’s one less door to knock on.