The Van Buren Education Foundation spent the morning of Dec. 12 handing out classroom grants for its 2018 fall semester submissions, and when the process was finished a total of $29,266.10 had been given out to teachers at eight schools in the district.

“This is a very fun day,” said Debbie Thomas, the foundation’s executive director. “It’s inspiring. When you walk in the classroom and a teacher yells, ‘We got our money! We got our money!’ It’s very gratifying.”

Teachers submit grant requests for both the fall and spring giveaway periods. Twenty-eight grants were funded on this day, the checks being handed out by Thomas’ Pointer Patrol, which is made up of school officials, foundation representatives and businessmen and women from throughout the community.

They loaded up on a school bus shortly after 8 a.m. and made their way to happy teachers at Central, King, City Heights, Rena and Parkview Elementary Schools as well as Butterfield Trail Middle School, the Freshman Academy and Van Buren High School.

Many of the businesses represented on the bus were also responsible for helping the foundation fund the grant requests.

“None of this would have happened without the community people that give,” said Thomas. “It doesn’t matter if you give $10 or $10,000, it’s all going to better the education of our kids and our community.”

While the foundation’s fundraising is actually underway all year long, it really kicks into high gear with a November luncheon, followed up by a spring banquet that honors the top 40 graduates from VBHS.

The fall semester payout pushed the total amount given to date by the foundation back to teachers’ programs to $976,709.43 since 2001. The total is expected to surpass the $1 million mark during its spring payout.

“I got to present one time at a national school board meeting and someone asked me, ‘How do you raise all that money? Is there a big industry in town?’” Thomas said. “And I said, ‘No, it’s just a lot of individuals and business people that give money.’”

It’s all about the students and their education.

“If you’re going to do anything that changes a kid’s world or community, it’s all about education,” said Thomas. “They’re not competing in a local world, they’re competing in a global world. And they’re not going to succeed unless they have the very best.”

The Pointer Patrol made its way up and down the various hallways, jingling bells while handing out pencils and candy to teachers for the students in their classrooms.

“The kids are a little bit in awe when they see all this commotion,” said Thomas. “The teachers know and it just glorifies their jobs. It’s like I said, you can have days when you’re not happy with life, but when you come in on this day and you get a big check and get to celebrate it’s a lot of fun. And it helps them get to do a project they’ve wanted to do but is not in the budget.”