Pandemic doesn’t stop Gene Grawe Fund from assisting families at Quincy’s Catholic schools

Gene Grawe Fund

QUINCY — JoAnn Witte was worried.

The amount of money collected by the Gene Grawe Fund had risen every year since its inception in 2005. However, problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during the past year gave cause for concern for Witte, the founder and president of the fund.

The fund office in the lobby of St. Peter School, where many of the gift cards are sold, was closed for more than two months because of the pandemic. Construction work on Maine Street made getting into the fund office difficult when it eventually did open last summer. Restaurant gift cards typically generate some of the highest returns for the fund, but the pandemic forced many restaurants to close — some temporarily, some permanently. 

“I was worried that people would get out of the habit (of buying the cards),” Witte said. “I was concerned. I really didn’t think we would give out that much money this year.”

Consider Witte surprised.

The total funds collected for the 2021-22 school year was $300,121. The average award announced last week for the 436 participating families was $677.54. Some families received enough money to cover tuition costs to attend one of Quincy’s four Catholic elementary schools or Quincy Notre Dame. 

The total funds collected for the 2020-21 school year was $319.635, and the average award for each family was $702.50.

“The program just keeps growing,” Witte said. “You get new families, then you get the families with children who have graduated, but they keep buying the cards. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be off the charts, and hopefully we’re done with any more major pandemics.”

Witte says the use of Visa and Discover cards to pay bills anywhere is becoming more prevalent. However, the fund makes only 1.25 percent on those cards. By comparison, some local businesses donate as much as 20 or 30 percent of gift card sales. 

Out-of-town family members and friends can use hundreds of online merchants and nationwide chains on ShopWithScrip​.​com.

Some local businesses don’t offer gift cards but will donate a percentage of its sales to the fund when a customer brings in their bill and makes a request. 

Funds raised from April 1 through the end of March will help families for the 2022-23 school year. Hours at the Gene Grawe Fund office are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. It is open from 7 :30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.  

Witte launched the fund in 2005 to pay tribute to her father, Gene Grawe, a long-time officer at the Western Catholic Union. His 11 children went through Quincy’s Catholic school system.

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