Average family participating in Gene Grawe Fund to get more than $840 for tuition costs next year

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Dorothy Haley, foreground, hands Jessica Hollensteiner her envelope with her amount of Gene Grawe Funds earned during Tuesday's event at St. Dominic Church. | Photo courtesy of Steve Looten, Western Catholic Union

QUINCY — The idea of the Gene Grawe Fund was created by JoAnn Witte in 2005 as a fundraiser at St. Anthony School.

Eighteen years later, it has grown into something not even Witte could have imagined.

Organizers announced Tuesday night the fund is awarding $375,190.51 to 437 participating families to defray tuition costs for the 2023-24 school year at Quincy’s four parochial grade schools and Quincy Notre Dame High School.

“Families have told me, ‘JoAnn, we would not be able to afford Catholic education if not for this Gene Grawe Fund,’” Witte said. “It does make my heart happy. I have to say that.

“You know, I couldn’t even imagine anything (when the program was launched) because I feel that God placed it on my heart to do this. I just started it, and He continued to bless it.  I feel blessed to do what God has led me to do.  I love doing it. I’m so happy to be here. I love seeing the merchants and the people and helping the families.”

Funds were raised through the purchase of gift cards, as well as online purchases, at many local and national businesses.  A portion of each sale is returned to the Gene Grawe Fund by the business. 

The average participating family will receive $840.78 for tuition costs. Last year’s average was $731 per family. One family is receiving $6,361 this year.

“Wanting to go to Catholic school, but not being able to pay for it, should never be an option, because there are ways,” Witte said. “One family is getting free tuition at Notre Dame by doing the Gene Grawe Fund this year.  It can be done.  It’s not because a family has a lot of money, but they’re getting family and friends all to support them.  It’s money we are already spending with these merchants.”

Witte said one family has 12 to 15 people buying gift cards for them.

“Some of these families don’t spend money unless they use gift cards,” she said.

Witte also said the fund offers pre-paid Visa cards that do not charge an activation fee. People often use them to pay their phone, water and heating bills.

Total money raised through the Gene Grawe Fund since 2008 is $3,314,583.78, with 68 local merchants participating this year. The fund offers more than 750 merchants nationwide.

Online sales topped more than $2 million this year, using either E-cards or physical cards.

“Local businesses are more than happy to give us the money than to give the credit card companies their percent, so they’d rather support us,” Witte said. “Some businesses let them pay their bills in our office instead of using credit cards, so they give us that three percent instead of the credit card companies.  The money stays local.  Our people support those businesses.  Some of our people won’t ship anywhere else unless they use the gift cards.”

Witte says the fund is taking reservations for next year.  Any purchases made now through March 31st will go toward tuition for the 2024-25 school year.  Any family with a student in 3-year-old preschool today can participate.

The fund was established by Witte to honor her father, Gene Grawe, a long-time officer of Western Catholic Union.

Information for this story was provided by Steve Looten with the Western Catholic Union.

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