Need help staying in class? Greenville school fund stands ready and waiting

By Ryan Jeltema • Last Updated 12:47 pm on Monday, October 31, 2011

During the community dinner that took place last year, Opportunities for Success gathered backpacks and was able to hand them out to needy students.

GREENVILLE — A special Greenville Public Schools fund is going on two decades of helping keep needy children in the classroom.
Dan Eagles, a retired counselor from Greenville Public Schools, started the program in 1993.
It originally was called the Keep a Kid in School fund. He gathered money from community members to help at-risk students.
Linda VanHouten has been working with the fund since 1998. It since has been renamed Opportunities for Success.
“This program meets critical needs for many children,” said Greenville Superintendent Pete Haines. “Without this generous support, many children would not be able to overcome barriers to learning beyond their control.”
Opportunities for Success provides financial assistance to students and their families for health related services, diagnostic needs, educational enrichment and personal needs to help keep students in school.
“We know these things help keep students in school,” VanHouten said.
Nearly any need will be considered, VanHouten said. She has a small committee that considers each request and determines whether it is appropriate.
Since 1993, the fund has helped about 700 students, thanks to generous community support.
Until 1999, VanHouten sent letters to local social clubs, organizations and residents asking for financial support. On average, she said most groups gave $25 to$50.
Opportunities for Success received its first grant from the Greenville Area Community Foundation in 1999.
“They are the organization that has been behind us and committed to this fund since 1999,” VanHouten said. “Their support is really instrumental in helping us get our feet off the ground.”
The foundation has awarded more than $50,000 in grants to the Opportunities for Success fund over the past 12 years.
VanHouten spoke to the Greenville Optimist Club three years ago about the fund when the area homeless student population began increasing.
“I presented to (them) about the needs that we have,” she said. “From that point on, they have continued to be a tremendous supporter of our fund.”
VanHouten said the club has been generous in supplying boots, hats, mittens and snow pants. Its contributions to Opportunities for Success have topped $13,000.
“I can’t say enough about this organization and their commitment to he kids in our community,” she said.
Last year, VanHouten said the Greenville Masonic Lodge inquired about helping the fund and decided to donate through its charitable fund.
“This group of individuals is also truly committed to making a difference in our community and they have really stepped up to the task,” she said. “I am so impressed with their passion for making a difference.”
Several other individuals, businesses and service clubs that have donated to the fund independently over the years.
“Working together has long been the strength of the Greenville community,” Haines said. “This kind of voluntary investment in children is a clear statement of values.”
Last year, Opportunities for Success served two meals over the holiday break to help families that depend on breakfast and lunch for their children at school each day.
“I leaned on our school staff to help put this all together and they were phenomenal. But once the word got out, the calls from the community members, local churches, service organizations and outside agencies was overwhelming,” VanHouten said. “It was the most beautiful thing to see all of these individuals stepping up over their holiday break to help service these families.”
VanHouten said Greenville is a unique community that works hard to help its residents in need.
“We have an amazing community,” VanHouten said. “I have yet to have a situation where someone has come to me with a need that I cannot find someone who is willing to meet that need.”

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