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Small Grants Make Big Impact on Kids' Lives

December 27, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - When the kids pile back into their classrooms after the holiday break, their teachers could be the first to notice who's going without such basics as winter clothing or dental care - and also the first to help meet those needs. The Oregon Education Foundation grants amounts of up to $100 to teachers who make specific requests on behalf of students. Most are for things like shoes and eyeglasses.

Requests in 2010 are at an all-time high, says Hannah Vaandering, who chairs the foundation. To make the money go further, she explains, they have teamed up with other professionals.

"We have optometrists working with us to make sure that the student can have the prescription they need with the $100 grant that the teacher receives. Hearing aids, molds - for all of those expensive services, we have providers who are working with us."

The money is not given directly to students or their families. Instead, Vaandering explains, the teacher takes responsibility for making sure the need is met, outside of school hours.

"We have members making up to a two-hour trip to take students shopping. They're using every penny of the Foundation money to the best of their ability, to meet the needs of the students. It really is a phenomenal gift from our members to the families and the students, to make a difference in their lives."

The Oregon Education Foundation is funded primarily by teacher contributions, but anyone can donate, Vaandering says. This year, an average of $3,000 a week has been distributed across the state.

More information is on the Oregon Education Association website, www.oregoned.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR