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Recipients of this year's Kiwanis mini-grants with members Bob Spinelli and Vicki Burkhalter (L)

Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Award Thousands For Kids

OAKHURST — The room was full and so were the hearts, as teachers and school representatives gathered by request to celebrate one of the year’s highlights in giving: Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Mini-Grants for education.

Local Kiwanis and others convened on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at El Cid Mexican Restaurant to give and receive money in support of projects and products that help bridge a gap for mountain area students. Kiwanis say they are unified in their belief that children and their communities benefit from the efforts of a proficient group of caring and involved volunteers. So that’s who they are.

Thirteen recipients were awarded a total of nearly $10,000 say local Kiwanis, and this is the fourth year that mini-grants have been given. The funds distributed are raised through the Kiwanis’ annual summertime car show, Run for the Gold. Major sponsors for that event include Sierra Tel, Fresno Lexus, Donaughy Sales – 805 Beer, Redman’s Machine Shop, Yosemite Bank, Grocery Outlet, and Coarsegold Car Care. In addition to the major sponsors, a host of individuals and businesses contribute to Kiwanis events, says Past President Bob Spinelli.

During the grants luncheon, Bob made an exciting announcement: Kiwanis are launching a second signature car show, in addition to Run For The Gold, set for the weekend of June 9, 2018. It’s an evening event, known as Under The Stars, and further details will be announced as plans are made. Run For The Gold is scheduled for September 7-8, 2018. Volunteers for both events are needed.

The Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis club meets every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. at El Cid in Oakhurst. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. A membership drive and guest day will follow on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Closing out 2017 on a very high note with a lively bunch of grateful people on hand to offer thanks and appreciation, Kiwanis’ Vicki Burkhalter took to the podium to announce the recipients of this year’s mini-grants.

  • Chawanakee Academy teacher Becky Cairns was awarded a grant to be applied toward the tenth year of a drama program available to students K-12. Funds were given to purchase supplies for backdrops, costumes, props, scripts, and programs. They may also use the money for royalty fees and to purchase wireless microphones. The program at Chawanakee Academy allows students to participate as actors, assistant directors, hairstylists, artists, carpenters, stage crew, costumers, cooks, servers and more.
  • Chawanakee Academy teacher Mary Dodge was awarded a grant that will benefit about 60 students K-8. The funds will be used to purchase playground and physical education equipment for their new location at Minarets High School.
  • Coarsegold Elementary School teachers Mindy Gresham, Tracey Duncan, Maureen Chase, Kristen Kernaghan and Jody Burnett banded together on behalf of about 450 students and 20 staff members for a multi-year project that includes special ed. Funds for this program will be used to purchase an electric pottery kiln for use in all grade levels. The project enables a partnership with the Madera County Arts Council for after school programs.
  • Coarsegold and Rivergold Elementary Schools‘ Music Instructor Christel Biasell was awarded a mini-grant related to her work in the Yosemite Unified School District. Funds will be used for annual maintenance and repair of band instruments at both schools, and will benefit numerous students throughout the life of the instruments.
  • Spring Valley Elementary School teacher Kim Boatman received a grant to cover the costs of mounting and displaying student work from the after school art club, which has expanded to grades 2 – 8 on multiple days, and includes museum field trips. The funds will benefit the work of about 100 students.
  • Oakhurst Elementary School 4th grade teacher Dawn Williams was given a mini-grant to purchase 20 stereo headphones with volume control, for use with existing Chromebooks. The purchase will benefit the current class of 27 students as well as future classrooms.
  • Oakhurst Elementary School principal Kathleen Murphy received a check to purchase 18 copies of the book, “I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared.” The book goes to teachers and is designed to help children develop on understanding of what needs to be done if they encounter a “dangerous someone.” The book aligns with the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE) training program for teachers and staff. The program will benefit more than 400 students this year and more in the future.
  • Oak Creek Intermediate and Wasuma Elementary School band instructor Francisco Marquez was awarded money to purchase new beginning percussion instruments and to be used toward the annual maintenance of school band instruments. The funds will benefit many students for years to come.
  • Wasuma Elementary School principal Heather Archer was given funds to purchase 17 copies of the book, “I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared.” The book goes to teachers and is designed to help children develop an understanding of what needs to be done if they encounter a “dangerous someone.” The book aligns with the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE) training program for teachers and staff. The program will benefit more than 300 students this year and more in the future.
  • North Fork Elementary School teacher Katie Kelly received money to purchase five Nurugo Micro 400X smartphone microscopes, enabling students to attach this lens to their smartphones to investigate microscopic life around us. The lenses will be used by all students currently in grades 7 and 8 and for many years to come.
  • Mountain Home School Charter teacher John Rumohr was supplied with funds to assist with tuition and transportation for 24 students in grade 8, in order to attend a marine biology science camp on Catalina Island. Students will study marine ecosystems and their interaction with environmental systems. The program concludes with a nighttime snorkeling lab.
  • Mountain Home School Charter teacher Julie Davis was awarded a mini-grant to buy updated novels for the school’s book study class, teaching life lessons. The purchase will benefit all students now in grades 3 – 8 and in years to come.
  • Mountain Home School Charter teacher Susan Nobles received funds to purchase four binocular microscopes for use in life science lab activities for students in grades 4 – 8. The money benefits 125 current students multiple times for several years.

Kiwanis was founded in 1915 and today has over 600,000 members and 15,000 clubs that serve in 90 countries around the world.

Click here to see current Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis officers.

“One of the goals of Kiwanis is to enhance the community and the best way to do that is to enhance the children,” members of the organization believe. “When you give a child a chance to learn, experience, dream, and succeed, great things will happen. The needs of children are the number one priority at Kiwanis.”

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