Weatherford school gets surprise $250,000 donation

12/23/2013 12:26 PM

12/23/2013 12:28 PM

It was a Christmas gift that came early.

Or at least that’s what it seemed like to much of the staff at Weatherford Christian School when a donor, who wished to remain anonymous, recently contributed $250,000 to the school’s ever-expanding educational needs.

“I tried to act calm, like I’m used to this happening all of the time,” said a very excited Head of Schools Courtney McKeown. “But inside, I was ecstatic.”

She said the donors caught her “completely off guard” when they stopped by the school for what appeared to be simply a conversation.

“They indicated that they had been meaning to make a donation to the school and hoped to see our two campuses get back together soon,” McKeown said.

Currently, the elementary campus at South Main Church of Christ is separate from the main campus at 2300 Ranger Highway.

“Their vision is to bring us all back together at the same campus, and eventually we will,” McKeown said. “This donation is designed with the specific purpose of building additional classrooms which will meet the needs of our middle school-aged students.”

Officials say the timing is perfect because the elementary school has seen a 35 percent boom in growth since March.

“We had this growth spurt and didn’t know where we were going to put everybody,” McKeown added. “South Main Church of Christ has been really kind. They had outgrown a space and moved into a new building so they gifted us a building to use temporarily or until we could get everyone out here — so it’s been a real blessing in disguise.”

Leslie Chalmers, director of development for the last four years, was quick to emphasize that the school, like all private schools, does not receive any state funding, making the donation that much more special.

“We’re not a private Christian school that you see in the larger cities that are overly developed and have major donors and local celebrities that are pumping in donations,” Chalmers said. “We work continually and very hard on fundraising to make this happen. So for someone to walk in and give a donation like this — it’s huge — you just don’t hear of that.”

The school does two major fundraisers each year — an auction in the spring and a gala in the fall.

McKeown said each event brings in roughly $120,000, which helps with scholarships at the school and to further the curriculum at campuses.

“To have a donation this large that can be designated for the future of our facilities, was enormous,” she said. “We’ve been so concerned with keeping the tuition low that we haven’t been able to put money in a building fund at the moment.”

In the spring, McKeown wraps up her first year as head of schools, but she has an eight-year history with Weatherford Christian School. She attributes their success to the way the school operates, which is through a Biblical world view on everything, and by keeping class sizes small.

“Our class size ranges from 12-17,” McKeown said. “In education, if you can’t reach their hearts first then you can’t reach their minds. So you have to start with that personal relationship with that child, and it’s hard to do if you have too many kids in the classroom.”

The donation will help build 10 classrooms, two sets of restrooms and the first phase of the educational floor plan on the west side of the gym, roughly 13,000 square feet, and should be completed by the end of the school year and ready for fall 2014.

Chalmers said it was all about timing.

“It’s easy to get frustrated because we want it now, but it’s always been about God’s timing, not our timing,” she said. “Sometimes, for us to understand that as humans is very hard. It’s been through the power of prayer and people’s faith that has brought us through the tough times.”

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