The Elbert Files: A most unsual scholarship
Friday, June 06, 2014 6:00 AM
The way 89-year-old Fred Stines remembers the story, fellow Des Moines Golf and County Club member Bill Straw was about to retire from Meredith Corp. in 1992 and “had some money he didn’t want to give to the government.”
It was a modest amount, but Straw had a vision, Stines said. He wanted to use this investment as seed money to create a foundation that would help hardworking young people pay for college.
Specifically, he wanted to help employees of the country club and the children of club employees.
And he has.
Over the past two decades, the Des Moines Golf and Country Club Educational Foundation has raised more than $1 million, which has been used to fund 303 scholarships.
In fact, the foundation was so successful that it became a template for other country clubs nationwide, Stines said.
Des Moines Golf and Country Club manager Jim Cutter said that although other golf-related scholarship programs exist, he believes Des Moines Golf’s foundation was the first scholarship effort located within a country club.
During the foundation’s early years, Straw pretty much ran it alone, with help from his wife, Marilyn, and fellow Meredith retiree Larry Hartsook, Stines said.
In 1998, Stines was asked to step in and help build on Straw’s success, which he did by expanding the foundation board to include past club presidents.
Stines joined the foundation right before the U.S. Senior Open was held at the West Des Moines country club in 1999. That was fortunate, because the event put Des Moines on the professional golf map, opening up sponsorships and charitable giving possibilities that had not existed before. The foundation got a one-time shot in the arm of $37,000 from the Senior Open. More important, Stines learned how to solicit donations from club vendors.
Club members also upped their contributions to the foundation from $16,000 in 1997 to $27,000 in 1998. Altogether, member contributions totaled more than $500,000 over the years.
Another consistent source of funding is the annual Educational Foundation Golf Classic begun in 2002 and held June 12 this year. The foundation collects $250 from each of 100 players, in addition to sponsorships.
In 2007, the foundation began soliciting memorials and legacy gifts from members to create an endowment, which now totals just under $150,000.
Over the years, the number of scholarship awards increased from two to 20 annually. Individual awards are $3,000 for students attending four-year schools and $1,500 for those attending two-year schools. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years for students who maintain a minimum grade point average and keep a work relationship with the club. Awards are made based on need and academic achievement.
Cutter believes the foundation has been especially beneficial to Des Moines Golf. “I think it’s a great retention tool for the club,” he said. The opportunity to win a scholarship not only attracts top-notch summer employees; it encourages the best to return to the club and work each summer while they are in college.
Beginning this year, the foundation will provide one $5,000 scholarship from the endowment fund for a student entering his or her senior year of college.
The scholarships are highly prized by club employees, Stines said, as is evidenced by the fact that more than half of the 70 to 80 employees eligible apply for the educational grants.
Disclosure: Dave Elbert has contributed to the Des Moines Golf and Country Club Educational Foundation and played in its golf tournament every year since 2005. His team, captained by past Des Moines Golf President Bob Clark, has placed as high as second.
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