Yoplait awards grant funding to community projects

OSCEOLA COUNTY — It was a happy day for several school districts and organizations throughout the area invited to Yoplait USA in Reed City to share their stories and nearly $66,000 in fresh grant money.

Last year a team from the plant traveled to several counties in a day-long excursion, but this year invited those receiving grants to come to Reed City and share their personal reasons for asking for grant money, to give others ideas for their own programs.

And come and share they did.

Vicky Bowman of Reed City first of all thanked Yoplait and the General Mills Foundation for making the grants possible, then explained the Family Night program that is in its fourth year at Godfrey T. Norman Elementary School.

She shared a slide presentation, and talked about the stressful time she endured trying to organize a roller skating outing, thinking it would be fun for families, but never expecting that well over 500 people would sign up.

She noted that the Family Night activities are completely free for families, thanks to the grants, donations, businesses, and volunteers. Each child from birth through Middle School receives a free book at the monthly Family Nights. In addition, parents network, learn what works best and share other ideas, as well as a meal.

That program received a grant this round totaling $5,000.

Baldwin received two grants. Scott Pedigo talked about the after school program implemented there, bringing equipment to the elementary school where youngsters in third through sixth grades can gain access to fitness equipment.

Pedigo said the grant money totaling $7,500 will give them an opportunity to provide activities and equipment that will encourage a real focus on health and fitness. Utilizing what has become available already has meant seeing youngsters better their scores in classes. He said they know the special activities are based on behaving, having their homework done and earning the privilege of using the equipment.

Tutors and teachers are helping them with their work when necessary, and he noted that just being able to earn that privilege of using the weight room and becoming a part of things has changed many attitudes and reduced behavior issues.

Thanks to the grant money, he said additional equipment can be purchased and implemented in the after-school effort.

The second grant for Baldwin schools totaled $6,500 and was accepted by Brian Parent, who is the band and choir director. He said that 97 percent of the students in band are using school owned instruments, and the school provides all the reeds, music and other items free to the students.

He said last year’s grant allowed the school system to get more instruments for the students, an initiative that started ten years ago. The grant will help replace some “large ticket percussion instruments.” He learned what being in band can do for a youngster, having had in Idaho “a band of nine people.” Here he has 30, “and these 30 kids are in a Class B school playing Class A music. You gave them this opportunity.”

In exchange for receiving her grant money totaling $9,800 for Marion Public Schools, Beth Robb shared how the students there are being taught “Nutrition for the Brain,” tying it in with the core units of math, science, English, and social studies. She said the children are discovering that eating right is vital to doing well, and “we have a huge group of kids who eat breakfast and lunch at school, and discover that the nutritional portion of their day can fuel them all the way through.

She noted that the school was listed as a low achieving school district, but when we taught the kids that before testing, they would do even better if they ate healthy, they quickly discovered it was true, and the scores are improving this year considerably.

Accepting the grant money totaling $10,550 for the Cadillac School System were Joy Beth Hicks and Deb Anderson. Last year’s grant money went toward promoting physical education and health. Each child received a “walking during lunchtime punch card,” and once filled, it entitled them to take part in a weekly assembly complete with healthy prizes.

This grant will be used to give children in the school system who have never had a chance to ride a bike to become part of a special club. Bikes will be purchased that will give them that opportunity. Last year, grant money helped start a snowshoe club, a biking club, as well as going swimming and bowling.

Ed Mallett of Tuba Bach gave input about the fifth anniversary of the six-week festival in Big Rapids, bringing in amazing talent from all over the world, and offering free concerts not only in the schools for students and staff, but also family, and reaching out with music to nursing homes and special education programs. Tuba Bach was presented with a $6,500 grant.

Scott Barger of Cran-Hill Ranch accepted a $10,000 grant, and shared how the grant can provide camper scholarships and help transform lives into the image of Christ. He noted that a number of corporations help in that effort as well, and shared that this year’s winter activities saw the tennis court turned into an ice rink and more than 2,500 people from the community showed up for the Snowfest.

The group was reminded that these grants are reality now, but that the time to apply for more is nearing.

They also were told that General Mills Foundation philanthropy and giving back to the community has now reached the $100 million mark.