By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
JoAnn Witte stood near the back of the St. Dominic School gym Wednesday night as people buzzed around her. Parents of children who attend Quincy's Catholic schools filled the gym, each there to see how much scholarship money they would receive from the Gene Grawe Fund.
Witte, who started the fund eight years ago, has been overwhelmed with the support shown by the community. On Wednesday night, the fund reached a special milestone. Witte announced 497 families would each receive $250 scholarships. That means the fund has raised more than $500,000. When this year's $124,250 is added, the fund has raised $594,750 during its lifetime.
"It was one of those things that God led you to do and you do what He leads you to do," Witte said. "The fund has been very blessed by God, and I've been very blessed. I am so thankful that I'm able to do this."
Witte established the fund to honor her father, Gene Grawe, a long-time officer of the Western Catholic Union and a huge supporter of Quincy's Catholic schools.
"My 10 brothers and sisters all went to the Catholic school, so we're proud of the Catholic schools," said Witte, who attended St. Anthony School and Quincy Notre Dame before graduating from Quincy College. Witte's three children -- Matthew, a University of Missouri student; Hannah, a Culver-Stockton student; and Andrew, a Quincy Notre Dame junior -- were all brought up through the Quincy's Catholic school system.
Funds were raised this year through the purchase of gift cards that were sold through each Quincy Catholic school and parish. Cards were available from a number of local and national businesses. The Gene Grawe Fund received a portion of each gift card that was sold. Witte said people could buy cards ranging from $5 to $5,000.
Jared Haugh, a St. Francis member who has three children who attend St. Francis Solanus School, said participating in the gift card program was a "no-brainer."
"It's not like a lot of other fundraisers where you buy things and might only need a certain amount of something," he said. "Everyboy needs to buy groceries. Everybody buys gas. Everybody goes out to eat once in a while. You buy a $10 card and you get $10 to spend and the fund gets the net percentage. What better fundraiser is there than that?"
More families than ever benefited from the fund this year. People were snaked around in a long line at the back of the gym as Witte addressed the crowd during a short presentation.
"Family-wise it has continued to grow," Witte said. "People support it and it's helping families. ... I had no idea that it was going to grow into something like this."
Witte said that the scholarships are open to all Quincy Catholic school families. They only need to register. She said that the fund gets anywhere between 2 percent and 20 percent back from each card it sells.
"Our theme is â€˜Serving God by helping each other,'" Witte said. "That's what we're doing. We're not only helping ourselves by buying the cards, but we're helping each other to support Catholic education."