McHenry County College received a $10,000 grant from the McHenry County Community Foundation that allows student veterans to purchase books and supplies for the fall semester. The grant bridges the gap between the veterans' GI Bill benefits and receipt of military funds for books – funds that veterans don’t always receive before classes start.
The McHenry County Community Foundation recognized this gap and established a "Pay It Forward" books and supplies grant in August. Veterans who receive the grant will return the funds when their GI Bill stipend arrives, but were ready with books and supplies the first week of classes.
According to Robin Doeden, executive director of the McHenry County Community Foundation, "a couple of years ago, the community foundation chose veterans services as a priority project. "We looked at gaps in the community and saw that helping MCC student veterans afford books and supplies upfront was a great way to assist veterans."
"The 'Pay It Forward' program is a result of feedback from fellow vets," Doeden added. "By paying the money back, they are replenishing the book fund so it will be there for future student veterans." If reimbursing with money is not an option, then we’re asking them to volunteer in the community," she said.
"It's great we have individuals and businesses in the community who can contribute that funding so we can be responsive to the needs identified by community members," Doeden said.
Loreen Keller, associate dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, who also serves as the veterans program administrator, said that approximately $2,200 out of the $10,000 was given to 12 student veterans the first week of fall classes, as a result of the "Pay It Forward" program.
"We really appreciate the support we received from the McHenry County Community Foundation to help service our veterans," said Tony Miksa, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs. "We know that students are more successful when they have their books and supplies on the first day of class, so the MCCF’s generosity furthers our mission to help our students be successful."
One student, Joe Mirable of McHenry, who served in the Navy, is pursuing an Associate in Arts degree and plans to transfer to DePaul University to study film. He used $430 for his books this fall.
"If it wasn't for the 'Pay It Forward' program, I'd be falling behind because I needed the books immediately," he said.