Special to AFN

The Kyrene Schools Community Foundation provides gifts to students, teachers, staff and Kyrene families in need.

Now, area residents can help the foundation continue to help others by attending their annual fundraiser - the Taste of Kyrene, now in its seventh year.

The Taste of Kyrene, 7-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Foothills Golf Club in Ahwatukee, features some of the finest appetizers and entrees from area restaurants, provides a wine-and-beer cash bar, includes entertainment throughout the evening and offers a popular silent auction with more than two dozen items.

People who cannot attend can purchase a $10 ticket for an “Opportunity Drawing” that doesn’t require the winners be present to claim their prizes.

The foundation, in partnership with the Kyrene School District, provides much to the communities it serves.

Besides scholarships for less-fortunate students, it distributes necessary school supplies, gently-used clothing and food distribution to families in need.

“I think that it’s important to realize it doesn’t take much to make a difference in your own backyard,” said this year’s Taste of Kyrene chair, Marjean Steinkamp.

The foundation’s major fundraiser is especially dear to Steinkamp, who started it nine years ago as a school-centric event at Kyrene del Cielo when her son was enrolled there.

“The Taste of Kyrene has already done so much good in many ways including taking care of our students and their families in need. I’m proud that the volunteer-run foundation raises money for so many things that would otherwise go unfunded,” said Steinkamp, who has three children enrolled in Kyrene schools.

“And this is our major fundraiser so we really want people to come support the foundation while having a great time doing it,” she added.

For foundation board president Kelly Katsiris, fundraising is a passionate commitment to bettering the Kyrene School District’s 25 schools and the students and faculty who study and labor therein.

“The foundation is an amazing resource for the Kyrene community and plays a critical role in the lives of our students, families and staff,” said Katsiris, who came on the board in 2012, and is in her third year as president.

“People may be unaware that in our Kyrene school there are 300 homeless students and 5,581 students on free or reduced lunch.  The proceeds from the Taste of Kyrene directly support our key programs which positively impact our Kyrene children, families and staff,” she said.

“On a monthly basis we provide food boxes and clothing for Kyrene families at our Family Resource Center. We also offer hygiene bags because food stamps cannot be used for basics like toothpaste, soap, shampoo or deodorant,” she continued, adding:

“Through our fundraising efforts, the Foundation provides resources with the goal of enabling every child to arrive at school ready to learn no matter their family circumstances.”

Katsiris proudly reviewed just some of the work done and monies dispersed by the non-profit Kyrene School Community Foundation last year.

They included $35,000 through the Kyrene Family Resource Center that provided families with food baskets as well as medical, dental, clothing and emergency financial assistance; $40,000 for student scholarships that assisted enrichment programs and extra-curricular activities; $45,000 for mini-grants for teachers and recognition awards for staff and students.

Last year, the Foundation awarded its first $5,000 Principal’s Grant to Centennial Middle School and its “Where Everyone Belongs” program to help sixth graders transition to middle school. This year the grant went to Kyrene de los Ninos for its “Engineering is Elementary.”

 And then there are those annual programs that aren’t highly-touted but, with the assistance of area businesses and individuals, mean so much to so many.

Stuff the Bus is the foundation’s back-to-school drive that last August supplied 1,300 students in grades K-8 with fully-stuffed backpacks. The majority goes out before school begins with the rest distributed as new students in need arrive to the district.

And each December, the foundation hosts the magical Winter Wonderland for parents of students in need.

Besides the festive ambiance of the event held at the district office, each parent receives two gifts per child and a $25 gift certificate for a meal. All gifts are then wrapped and labeled by foundation and district volunteers.

Last year, 327 families, encompassing 1,032 Kyrene students enjoyed a merrier Holiday thanks to many drives held by each school, businesses and community members.

Incoming new teachers are also gifted $50 for classroom supplies.

 ”The Kyrene Foundation is grateful for the community support for this amazing event which helps build a strong Kyrene community,” said Katsiris, a Kyrene parent and Intel marketing manager.  

The Taste of Kyrene tickets remain at $50 for online sales until Feb. 22, when tickets will be available only at the door for $70.

“We’ve kept it at the same price so we can have more people involved,” Steinkamp said. “And our $10 Opportunity Drawing lets people who can’t be present to still be a supporter of our schools, with $5 going to the foundation and $5 to the Kyrene school of your choice. We’re hoping to make about $4,500, realistically, but I’d like to make more, actually.”

Tickets: KyreneFoundation.org.  

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