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Freehold Borough Educational Foundation marks 20 years of support for schools

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FREEHOLD – After working for two decades to provide almost $440,000 worth of grants, programs, services and resources, the Freehold Borough Educational Foundation (FBEF) is continuing to seek ways to benefit children who attend the Freehold Borough K-8 School District.

In recognition of the nonprofit organization’s 20th anniversary, a celebration was held on Jan. 17 at the new media center in the district’s Park Avenue Complex, which houses the Park Avenue Elementary School and the Freehold Intermediate School.

As part of the celebration, the foundation’s latest donation was unveiled: a Lifesize Icon 600 video conference system that allows Freehold Borough students to speak with students in other nations and to experience virtual field trips.

“The system will allow students to travel the world without leaving Freehold Borough,” said Jean Holtz, who chairs the foundation’s Board of Trustees.

The foundation, which is an all-volunteer organization, was formed in March 1999. Holtz, who joined the foundation in 2002 and is serving her 15th year as chair, said the foundation “demonstrates that people believe every child, no matter where they live, deserves a quality education. The contributions and input make a positive difference in the lives of students.”

“There is nothing more important to our children than education,” Mayor Nolan Higgins said.

Holtz credited Higgins with assisting the foundation since it began.

The foundation’s contributions include helping to fund trips to Trenton for municipal and school district officials so they could request additional funding from the state.

At the anniversary celebration, state Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) spoke about the first time he visited the school district with state Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth). He said boxes were being used to divide classrooms.

“We were very moved by what we saw and we realized something needed to be done,” Houghtaling said. “We are very happy everything came into place and that there is more money in the budget. We are proud to be a part of this. We have a long way to go, but we are not giving up (the effort) to make Freehold Borough an even greater school district.”

As he presented a proclamation to the foundation’s members on behalf of the state, the assemblyman said, “This foundation came through and was very helpful, even in the darkest hours.”

Lynn Reich, a founding member of the foundation who currently serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees, said teachers submit applications for grants in the fall and grants are awarded in January.

The first grant request was for butterflies for kindergarten pupils in 2003 and since then, Reich said, the foundation has provided funding for digital storytelling, large-screen projectors, whiteboards, playground equipment, bean bag chairs and trips to the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, the Algonquin Arts Theater in Manasquan and Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. She said the foundation most frequently provides books.

“As a 1963 graduate of the intermediate school, I say ‘Go Freehold,’ ” Reich said.

Among the recipients of a foundation grant is teacher Wendy Buchanan, who received a grant for the “Family Affairs” program. The program taught students about differences in families and how to budget for a family’s needs, which led to children opening their own savings accounts.

Other foundation grants provided to her students included a technology grant that provided cameras and pictures, and the “Stories About Lives” program, which Buchanan said helped the children become storytellers.

“There is no doubt our students have benefited from these grants and programs,” she said.

Fourth-grader Luis Manzano informed those in attendance the foundation provided students with $10 to purchase books at a book fair. Luis said he used the money to buy a guide about how to succeed in school.

“The foundation has many impacts on the students,” Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic said. “The most important impact on the students is the communication that the adults care about them.”

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