Evart public schools goes wireless thanks to community donations

EVART — What started as a conversation over breakfast snowballed into free Wi-Fi at every building in Evart Public Schools.

At a monthly men’s breakfast at his church in February, Evart Middle School principal Jason O’Dell met Bruce Johnson, a Holland resident with a weekend home in Evart he’s frequented for 15 years.

“He asked about initiatives at our school, so I started sharing with him that at EMS, we are striving to focus on what we can do in order to better meet the needs of our students and the greater Evart community,” O’Dell said.

The conversation turned to the possibility of a free Wi-Fi network for teachers, students and community members. Johnson and his wife, Margie, generously offered to donate $2,000 to jump start the project.

Part of Johnson’s proposal was that O’Dell issue a challenge to community members to match his donation. Sixty-five donation request letters and five weeks later, another $2,400 came in and EPS was on its way to becoming wireless. Wireless access points were installed and ready for use in elementary, middle and high schools by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

“Saying thank you cannot begin to match the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. I am so grateful that Mr. Johnson and I had this breakfast conversation,” O’Dell said. “I received a call from Members First Credit Union asking how close we were to matching the donated funds. I told them the amount, and they told me they were going to cover the remaining portion in order to meet the goal. I simply couldn’t believe it.”

EPS would like to thank the donors that made the district’s Wi-Fi network possible: Bruce and Margie Johnson, Members First Credit Union, Holihan’s Drug Store, Taylor Insurance, Nichols Chiropractic, Evart Moose Lodge, Howard and Mary Ann Hyde, Jim and Nancy Crawford and Joseph and Carolyn Curtin.