The advanced welding lab at Botetourt Technical Education Center is one of the signature projects driven and supported by the Botetourt County Public Schools Education Foundation. Here students pose in the new lab when it opened in the fall of 2016.
Photo by Ed McCoy

Members of the Botetourt County Public Schools Education Foundation (BEF) hope Botetourt “gives” on Wednesday, March 14 during the third annual Roanoke Valley Gives online fundraiser for non-profits.

The 24-year-old education foundation members believe Roanoke Valley Gives is a way for students’ parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors and friends of the schools to make small (as little as $10) to large (any amount) donations to the BEF.

“Those $5 and $10 donations will add up,” BEF President Bob Patterson explained as the organization made its first foray into on-line contributions.

The BEF will be able to accept contributions from individuals and businesses all day on March 14 through the Roanoke Valley Gives website ( Foundation for Roanoke Valley (FRV) coordinates Roanoke Valley Gives, which also encourages donations to about 170 charities throughout the valley, including as many as 10 Botetourt organizations.

Over the years, the BEF has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to support Botetourt schools. Most of those funds have come from one major fundraising effort, the foundation’s annual Swing4Schools Golf Tournament in the spring.

The BEF’s 21-member board of directors has also solicited corporate and individual contributions, and more recently they have raised funds through activities like assisting with concerts at the Daleville Town Center.

Roanoke Valley Gives provides an opportunity to educate the general public about the BEF mission and the contributions it’s made to the school programs over the years, with the hope it will spur county residents to make a tax-deductible contribution.

While the public school system has a healthy budget, it still needs parents, community volunteers and additional funding if children are to learn on state-of-the-art equipment and be able to participate in varied programs that aren’t included in the regular school operating budget.

One of the most recent examples of how the BEF has contributed to expanding programs in the schools is its effort to raise $500,000 for the advanced welding lab at Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC).

The foundation through partnerships with a number of county industries raised $300,000 and that led to a $200,000 state grant to fund the lab.

That lab now allows students to earn an OSHA 10 Card, college credits, SP2 Safety Training, and a SkillsUSA welding credential along with American Welding Society (AWS) certification.

The BEF has been heavily involved in helping with other programs at BTEC. One that drew a lot of attention a few years ago was the Books2Bricks building program that allowed students to work with local tradesmen to build a house in a subdivision just outside of Fincastle.

The BEF also underwrote the cost of the Tiny House and last year’s Habitat for Humanity House that allowed a variety of BTEC students to get hands-on experience.

The list of support for other programs is also impressive.

Last summer, the BEF helped send three Criminal Justice students to the SkillsUSA Nationals in Louisville, Ky. after they won the Virginia competition.

When the school division started providing Chrome Books for high school students through the division’s One-To-One initiative in 2015, the BEF provided the protective covers for the computers.

The BEF has provided on-going support that allows the school division to provide fully-funded scholarships for 25 county graduates to attend Virginia Western Community College and others to attend Dabney S. Lancaster Community College.

Botetourt joined the VWCC Community College Access Program in 2013 with financial help from the BEF and more recently the Dabney Promise that provides the same kind of scholarships.

The BEF has provided support to send middle school students to Fox Island in the Chesapeake Bay where they learned about ways to protect the bay.

It’s funded expenses for Character Counts!, sending students to conferences, tuition assistance for students in dual enrollment and advanced placement classes, supported After Prom Parties, purchased software for the schools and paid fees for a variety of programs for students and teachers.

The foundation’s first project, interactive television called ITV, allowed a single teacher to work at one school yet teach at two others. ITV allowed students from Lord Botetourt or James River High Schools and BTEC to take classes through interactive audio and video links between the schools. The project allowed the schools to increase its course offerings to all students without duplicating services back in the mid-1990s.

The website will be open the entire 24 hours of Wednesday, March 14. Contributors and others will be able to keep up with how organizations are doing on the website as well.

Contributions can also be made to multiple organizations, too. Other Botetourt-related non-profits that are part of Roanoke Valley Gives are Addy Grace Foundation, Botetourt Education Foundation, Botetourt Family YMCA, Barn Cat Buddies Inc., Christian Free Clinic in Botetourt Inc., Daleville Institute Inc., League for Animal Protection, New Freedom Farm and Orchard Hills Achievement Center Inc.