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Catholic schools share in millions gift-wrapped by Gates

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Several Catholic schools in western Washington, including one in Federal Way and one in Des Moines, are benefitting from the generosity of Bill and Melinda Gates.

Last Thursday, it was announced the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave a $7.5 million grant to the Fulcrum Foundation, a non-profit organization trying to create an endowment for Catholic schools and students in the region.

Founded in 2002, the Fulcrum Foundation has given $2 million to schools and students needing tuition assistance. Schools and students receive aid based on need, so the amount a school gets annually changes as its needs change, said Joe Womac, the organization’s executive director.

Fulcrum contacted the Gates Foundation several months ago to see if it was interested in giving to the campaign, according to Womack.

In 2004, Fulcrum gave St. Vincent de Paul School in Federal Way $3,850 in tuition assistance. This year it has given $2,750.

St. Vincent de Paul School turned 40 years old last year and has more than 300 students, from kindergarten to the eighth grade.

St. Philomena in Des Moines received $8,800 in 2004 and $6,600 in 2005.

Founded in 1963, St. Philomena has 230 students and 15 full-time teachers, according to principal Sandra Smith.

The school has kindergarten through eighth-grade classes. Last year, 16 students in the school received tuition assistance of $550, Smith said.

Applicants are considered based on their need and the income of their families. Fulcrum Foundation is blind to what an applicant’s faith is when considering whom to give assistance, Womac said.

The Gates Foundation grant is part of a larger push by the Fulcrum Foundation to raise $40 million to help 68 Catholic schools and the 22,500 students they serve, according to Womac.

He said $35 million is for an endowment and $5 million is to pay for current programs and tuition assistance.

Smith said the first part of the campaign is silent, with potential donors being told about the fund-raising. In the second half of the campaign, the Catholic community will make a more public announcement.

“This was really a pivotal gift,” Smith said.

The endowment will help students pay for tuition and schools struggling with operating expenses. The campaign is expected to take four or five years to complete, Womac said.

Money from the Gates Foundation will be split, with $5 million going to the endowment and $2.25 million paying for current tuition assistance and programs the Fulcrum Foundation funds.

When the endowment is fully funded, Womac said, Fulcrum Foundation hopes to double the number of tuition assistance dollars it gives and the number of students it helps.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, malliday@fedwaymirror.com

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