In its inaugural year the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation has already made contributions to the Tamaqua Area School District in the form of technology and teacher grants.

Now the foundation is prepared to take on a major project.

Robert A. Miller III, president of the foundation's board of directors, has announced plans to renovate the libraries of the district's three elementary schools.

The announcement was made during the foundation's annual meeting and cocktail party event held Saturday night at The Restaurant at The Station with a crowd of 100 in attendance. The event was sponsored by Mauch Chunk Trust Company.

The Raider Foundation's mission is to fund projects that are outside the school district's budget by enlisting individuals, corporations and foundations in charitable fundraising activities. The foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable corporation that acts autonomously from the district.

"The first full year of operating as been rewarding," said Miller. "We have taken in a little over $12,000 in donations and dispersed $9.000 thus far in projects. We applied for our EITC (earned income tax credit) status, which we expect shortly. We have broadened the scope of our board and have learned the ins and outs of what it will take to move this foundation forward."

Miller said the foundation has asked Beth Dal Santo to join, due to her expertise in assisting foundations. "Her knowledge, enthusiasm and guidance have been of great help," he noted.

So far, the foundation has provided the school system with nine iPads and seven iPad cases, valued at $4,750.

On Saturday Miller announced that five school teachers will receive a total of $3,000 in grant funds to be used to enhance the educational experience of their students. The grant recipients included Jolene Barron, elementary technology and computer coach; Corinne Betz, elementary library media specialist; Susan Featro, English as a Second Language teacher; Millini Skuba, high school language arts teacher; and Kimberly Snyder, middle school arts teacher.

Miller also said a website for the foundation is being created by high school teacher Ann Lagowy and her marketing class.

"The website will communicate foundation news, history, financials, projects and include a Tamaqua alumni interaction page," explained Miller. "Donations to the foundation will be open through the website, using PayPal.

"We are looking forward to this communications tool for a couple of reasons. Foremost, it will demonstrate the creativity of our Tamaqua students and their ability and knowledge of web construction. Secondly, it will allow the foundation to reach out to the community and the district's alumni base on a real time basis."

Miller stressed the need for the Tamaqua area business community to seek retention of the district's students when possible.

"Tamaqua's commerce now and in the future depends on the molding of our students' education," he remarked. "We need our graduates to stay. We need them to return after their higher education. We need their ideas, their entrepreneurship and their youth to grow and prosper the community."

Miller introduced Michael W. Fegley, the foundation board's coordinator for the library renovation project, as well as Tamaqua Elementary Principal Steve Behr and Mark Conville, the architect for the project.

"After much deliberation, we felt this is a project we could take on and have an impact," said Fegley.

Behr said that the elementary libraries are being used mostly as classrooms for teaching lessons. The renovations that are planned could shift that focus.

"We are looking to use our libraries as reading centers and for the Accelerated Reader program," stated Behr.

Conville said the Tamaqua Elementary School library is first to be targeted for the renovations, because it is in the most need.

"We want to take the wide open space that exists there now and break it into smaller spaces in order to get more teachers involved and to use more technology there," related Conville.

"We can do little projects, but we like to sink our teeth into the big stuff," mentioned Miller. "Once we get this done, we will be looking for another project."

To contact the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, call (570) 668-1241 or email blueraiderfoundation@gmail.com [2].