CALDWELL — The Whittenberger Foundation gave over $260,000 in grant funding to Treasure Valley nonprofits at its annual luncheon Friday at The College of Idaho.

The message throughout the longtime charitable foundation’s luncheon was that none of the more than $10 million in grants given over the last 40 years would have been possible without Ethel Bales Whittenberger, who included the foundation in her will.

Every year, the Caldwell-based foundation gives grant money to Treasure Valley organizations that aim to enrich the lives of youth in the area. This year, grants will provide funding to over 55 organizations.

“Oftentimes, people will come up here and say, ‘Thank you,’” said Pat Miller, the foundation’s board chairman. “That has always struck me as strange because we feel that we are privileged to be the board members. … We should really be thanking you for all you have done.”

Miller said since the foundation began giving away grants since 1973, now totaling $10,538,000.

This year’s grants ranged from $600 for Eagle Hills Elementary to purchase novels for fifth graders to the highest grant of $40,000 for The College of Idaho to fund the Whittenberger Scholars program.

One recipient this year was the Assistance League of Boise’s Canyon County Branch. Thanks to a $5,000 grant, the branch will increase the number of students they send on free-of-charge, school-clothes shopping sprees through the Operation School Bell program. This year, over 50 students in the Caldwell, Vallivue and Nampa school districts will benefit.

Julie Yamamoto, a volunteer with Operation School Bell, said the students went on a shopping spree last month to Kohl’s. With the grant money, she said, Operation School Bell will take another group of students in February or March to JCPenney.

“It is to help them feel better about being at school and to focus on academics and be less concerned with how they look and if they have school-appropriate clothing,” Yamamoto said.

School counselors within the three districts select students they believe would benefit from the new clothing.

“We appreciate the Whittenberger Foundation,” Yamamoto said. “They have so many needs, and to give us an opportunity to meet needs in our community, it is a gracious and wonderful thing.”

The foundation also gave money to help out even younger children through Giraffe Laugh, a Boise and Garden City nonprofit that provides early childhood care and education.

Giraffe Laugh has three learning centers that enroll children aged 5 and under.

“Our goal is to do those three things: to ensure children are ready when they enter school, to empower families and to build strong futures,” said Lori Fascilla, executive director of Giraffe Laugh.

The organization is celebrating its 30th year in operation and aims to provide early education to all families, even those who can’t afford tuition.

The Whittenberger Foundation grant will allow the organization to provide families with tuition scholarships and to supplement the costs with assistance.

Fascilla said, among the children enrolled in Giraffe Laugh, about half are low income and receive scholarships.

She said the nonprofit’s learning centers have a list of about 500 children hoping to get into the center with some financial assistance. She hopes the $4,000 Whittenberger grant will help reduce that waiting list.

Other examples of local grant recipients this year included:

  • United Way of Treasure Valley: $20,000 to support the Caldwell P16 Preschool program
  • Treasure Valley YMCA: $12,500 to support the 2020 Annual Campaign at the Caldwell Y, and $8,500 to update furniture, fixtures and equipment in the Caldwell Y’s Youth Activity Center
  • Caldwell Fine Arts Series, Inc.: $10,000 to support the 2019-20 VOICES Outreach Program
  • Mentoring Network, Inc.: $9,500 to provide 50/50 match funding for 28 mentored students in the Caldwell, Parma, Homedale, Vallivue and Nampa school districts

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

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