Q&A With Becca Blue, President of the Sutherland Foundation  

By Tina Jenkins Bell  

On a somewhat sunny February morning, I met Becca Blue at Afro Joe’s to talk about the Sutherland Foundation, an autonomous fundraising arm that raises money to cover Sutherland Elementary School’s capital needs, partially easing the school’s the dependence on the somewhat slow response of a larger bureaucracy. Blue bounces with enthusiasm and consistently uses pronouns like we and us as she discusses Sutherland’s capital needs. She also credits other groups like the Parent Teacher Association for their part in fulfilling more localized needs and praises Principal Margaret Burns and her administration for their undying support, vision and leadership. What really epitomizes Blue’s passion for helping the school is her embrace and inclusion in the discussion of the various organizations at the school that form the network, which makes Sutherland work… and work well.  

Blue has two high schoolers who graduated from Sutherland and one child who currently attends the school. She joined the Foundation in 2016 and has been president of the Foundation since 2020.  

Q: What is the Sutherland Foundation, and why is it needed? 

A: We are Sutherland’s main fundraising body that covers capital needs, like school wide book purchases, technology upgrades or replacements, and classroom renovations. The Foundation is one of a network of sources that works on Sutherland’s behalf. We work along with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that raises funds for and from dances and other social events and the Sutherland Student Athletic association (SSA) that covers the needs of our sports teams. As for the Foundation, we see Sutherland as a community and work for the good of the students, staff, and building. 

The Foundation is a 501C3, so when you donate to us, your donation is its tax deductible. 

Q: Why choose a foundation format over a “friends” group or an arm of a PTA or PTO?  

A: I was not one of the pioneers. I believe the Foundation was created at the beginning of my time at Sutherland. I don’t think it was until I my oldest was in 3rd grade that I really considered I could do things to be a part of my school. So, I can’t say 100% why they decided to go with the foundation, but I’m really pleased that it’s not a “Friends of Sutherland.” I like the idea of us (the parents) providing a foundation that wraps around the school and responds to more infrastructural needs.  

Q: Who comprises the foundation? How do they qualify?  

A: The Foundation consists of fifteen people. Actually, there’s fourteen of us, currently. We are all Sutherland parents, including three staff members who have children. Still, you don’t have to be a parent. A teacher who doesn’t have kids at the school is considering us. I would love to have her. The mix of parents and staff is nice. It helps us establish goals that we might not have known about before because they (staff) have a different perspective than parents do; they may know about needs that parents do not. So, it’s a good balance.  

Q: Can you give more examples of things the Foundation has done to raise funds? 

A:  We used to do one fundraiser per year, which is the Stampede. It was a one-day challenge to our kids to help us raise money to cover something that directly benefitted the school. If we reached our goal, we’d have a massive Sutherland party. Last October, we did the Double Good popcorn fundraiser. We sold $87,000 worth of popcorn in three days. Sutherland received just under $44,000 of that. Those funds were used to buy and install sixteen new smart board panels in our classrooms. We want to purchase another sixteen in the spring, so our next Stampede fundraiser will work towards that. Back during the pandemic, when the restaurants were slow and everyone was isolated, we worked with Won Kim. He hosted two community soup fundraisers for which we made about $8,000. It was so great of Won to help us, considering he had no kids of his own at the school. He stepped up, and the results were great. We’re currently on track this year to raise $100,000.  

Q: How has leadership guided or helped you?  

A: I’ve been at Sutherland through three administrations. I really started to get involved when Eric Steinmiller was the principal and am still involved with the current administration under Meg (Margaret) Burns. I will say Eric and Meg are brilliant people to work with. Both of them really have been open to our ideas. I can’t imagine any other type of administration.  

Q: What would you suggest for parents or school leaders to do if they want to start a foundation?  

A: Tell them to contact us. We already share information, like calls for grant proposals, with other schools. Still, there is nothing more we’d like to do than help others do what we’ve done at Sutherland. Let’s start that conversation. 

For more information about starting a foundation at your school, email Blue at sfee1925@gmail.com. ### 

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