INA, Ill. – The physical plant department’s idea six years ago to give something back to Rend Lake College has become one of the fastest-growing scholarships for students at RLC. Those employees who have helped fund the scholarship recently reached a milestone level of giving.
In 2004, physical plant staff started giving to the college through payroll deductions – the most widely used form of donating by staff and faculty at the college.
“We began with just small dollar amounts and thought that maybe, someday, it might turn into something,” said RLC Physical Plant Director Randall Shively. “Our original focus was to try and reach one student a year with a scholarship.”
The first student was Steve Simpson (McLeansboro) in 2004. It went to Mallory Risley (Christopher) the next year, Kyle Hammonds (Christopher) in 2006 and Heather Wynn (Waltonville) in 2007. In 2008 it grew to two students – Ryan Toennies (Aviston) and Richard Taylor (Mt. Vernon). When proceeds from a campus plant sale in the Spring were added, the scholarship was able to help Caleb Miller (Dahlgren), Dustin Wilson (McLeansboro) and Leyth Fenton (Wayne City).
What started with Simpson in 2004 has grown to six students this school year, each receiving a $500 scholarship. They are plant and soil sciences major Patryc Brinkley of Norris City; architectural technology majors Melissa Verdeyen of Hoyleton, Joseph Evans of Wayne City and Jacob Dicus of Carmi; industrial electronics major Matthew Martie of Pinckneyville; and welding technology major Joshua Farthing of Tamaroa.
All together, the department – grounds keepers, custodians, electricians and maintenance professionals – has generated more than $10,000 and provided annual scholarships to 15 students since 2004. It’s a milestone level of giving that qualifies the department for a RLC Foundation Bronze Major Gift Award.
According to Shively, it’s not just one or two employees, but several, who have decided to give back.
“Rend Lake College has been a good place to work and all of my employees would say the same,” Shively said.
The physical plant scholarship for each student has ranged from about $500 to $700 each year, Shively explained. The scholarship criteria is mainly focused on the financial need of students going into an industrial or facility-related program, such as architecture, industrial maintenance technology, heavy equipment technology and welding, to name a handful.
Originally, the scholarship was exclusively funded through payroll deductions. However, over the last couple of years a Spring plant sale has bolstered the fundraising efforts.
“We have been able to raise one to two thousand dollars each year by selling the plants that are left over from landscaping development around the time of graduation in May,” Shively added. “The plants are grown in the college’s greenhouses. Because the retail store on campus assists in the sale, it gets $500 of that. And because of that, the retail store was able to establish its own scholarship. They were excited to be a part of it.”
Shively is excited to see how the physical plant scholarship grows over time and has been considering other fundraising events on campus. One idea would utilize his widely known talent for barbecuing.
“Selling pork loins, chickens or Boston butts on a Friday, once or twice a year for employees to take home on weekends, could raise scholarship money too,” he explained. “It has potential.”