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Park Rapids foundation tops half million mark in activities allocations

Park Rapids Education and Activities Foundation board members, from left, Tom Conzemius, Steph Carlson, president, and Lisa Koppelman, treasurer, encourage new members to contribute to the PREAF whichhelps fund school activities and programs.

A foundation set up 15 years ago to help support Park Rapids school activities surpassed a big milestone this spring with allocations totaling over a half million dollars in its history.  Since forming in 2000 the Park Rapids Education and Activities Foundation (PREAF) has allocated over $515,000 to the educational, fine arts and athletic programs in the Park Rapids schools.  Tom Conzemius was the Activities Director in 2000 and helped establish the foundation with the support of local businesses and community leaders. At the time, the district saw cuts in funding on the federal and state level, and was forced to tighten the local budget with cuts to individual programs and activities.  

“The purpose of the foundation was to eliminate the numerous fundraising efforts by coaches and parents, and to raise enough funds to cover the needs of the various activities,” Conzemius said.  

The foundation takes the approach that instead of local businesses making out numerous checks each year to the requests from different activities, the businesses can make one donation per year to the foundation, which then disburses the funds through recommendations from the allocation committee.  

“The Park Rapids Education and Activities Foundation has played an integral role over the past 15 years, not only with financial assistance to the school, but also has developed a supportive collaboration with the school,” said Steph Carlson, foundation board president and school board member.  By taking this approach to fundraising the coaches have more time for coaching and the parents more time for the students.  Conzemius said one of the goals in setting up the foundation was to build the sustaining fund to a level that the funds would earn enough interest to support the annual needs of the different activities.  The sustaining fund currently has a balance of $50,000.  The foundation raises funds through annual individual cash donations and five levels of membership, ranging from the Panther Cub at $100 up to the Gold at $10,000. Each membership level brings with it benefits including season passes, advertising in game programs, recognition and other perks based on contributions.  

The foundation is not meant to replace the school district’s obligation. Foundation funds are used to enhance activities.  Requests for funding go through the activities director, then the allocation committee which consists of representatives from Speech/Drama, Music, Boys Athletics, Girls Athletics, and Academics. The Board of Directors then receives recommendations for the allocation committee.  Since its start in 2000, the foundation has allocated $131,560 to education and $43,465 to general athletics. Some of the largest individual program allocations include $40,209 to football, $28,091 to softball, $28,006 to baseball.  Allocations to other activities include additional athletic programs, band, BPA, vocal music, speech, and more.  The original foundation board in 2000 consisted of: Mark Hewitt, Chairman; Paul Utke, Vice-Chairman; Kathy Henry, Secretary; Angie Kuehn, Treasurer. Other board members: Kathy Grell, Dave Larson, Al Judson, Jim Wallace, Jerry Wanken.  The foundation continues its fundraising efforts and is now encouraging more alumni to get involved in supporting Park Rapids school activities.  

“Hopefully we all see the value and what people gain from being involved in extra-curricular activities,” Conzemius said. “Now people have the chance to give back.”  Allocations are directly funded by individuals, associations and corporation membership contributions.  “It’s exciting to provide our students with quality equipment and great experiences with a decrease in program fundraising,” Carlson said.  “Sustaining and increasing the PREAF’s membership is a constant goal for the foundation,” Carlson added. “The different levels of membership are designed to benefit people’s specific family needs.”  

Membership applications can be found on the school website at under the Activities/Athletics tab, at all Park Rapids school offices, and Citizens National Bank.