FAIRMONT - The fund balance for Fairmont's Dollars For Scholars chapter has grown by a half-million dollars in the past five years - increasing from $1.8 million to $2.3 million. The feat is even more significant considering the chapter gave away $600,000 in scholarships during that time, while the economy was struggling.
The organization is responsible for managing investments and vetting college-bound Fairmont graduates as potential recipients. This year, Dollars for Scholars handed out 132 scholarships, each averaging $1,000.
So far in 2012, Dollars for Scholars has gained $83,000 in new scholarship money, a figure it hopes to see grow in coming weeks.
Looming federal tax changes mean donating before the end of the year could be a wise move, according to Dollars for Scholars treasurer Bob Huemoeller.
Those who donate to the non-profit are given the option of making a pass-through scholarship of $600 or less, which is not invested but awarded directly to a student.
Donations between $600 and $9,999 are either deposited into the chapter's general endowment fund or designated as a scholarship.
Those who give $10,000 or more establish an annual scholarship in which the giver can specify the requirements - such as major area of study, grade-point average limitations, or whether the scholarship goes to a girl or boy.
There are currently 92 scholarships endowed with Dollars For Scholars, which manages all funds locally.
Many scholarships are given out of the interest earned on investments.
Four major contributors added this year to their existing scholarships:
o Doug and Dorothy Richards chose to increase their endowment after seeing some of their grandson's fees at college.
"We've seen our grandchildren go through school," said Doug Richards, a former principal for Fairmont schools, "and we know that our one grandson has more than $1000 in costs for books for one quarter. ... We wanted to at least help out with books."
o Dennis Murphy, a former teacher with Fairmont Area Schools, endowed a third scholarship to be awarded through the chapter.
"Community support for our schools has always been extremely strong," Murphy said. "Our young people are the best possible investment. Unlike usual investments, the endowments don't pay cash dividends, but there is a much greater dividend knowing that some former students have benefitted from Dollars for Scholars funds."
o Lorraine Balske, involved in founding Fairmont's Dollars for Scholars in 1974, recently added to the scholarship fund she created in memory of her parents.
o The fourth contribution came from Jeanne and Lonny Schwieger and their son, Dean. The family created a scholarship in 2001 in memory of their daughter-in-law and wife, Denise Ballman Schwieger.
The Schwieger fund will now be a stand-alone scholarship for a student pursuing a degree in either art or education.
Chapter president Loren Dunham said these types of donations make it easier for students to take on increasing college costs.
"As we see the cost of tuition and room and board rise, the funds provided through these scholarships become even more important in helping these students realize dreams and prepare for fulfilling careers that, in turn, impact our lives too," Dunham said. "Our chapter has been incredibly blessed with the many individuals and organizations in our area who so generously and willingly put forth this money to help our kids and encourage them to pursue education in such a tangible way.
Fairmont Area juniors and seniors can begin applying for Dollars for Scholars funds in January, and are able to apply online this year for the first time. Interested parties should visit www.Fairmont.dollarsforscholars.org