11/27/05 — Health board donates stipends for scholarships

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Health board donates stipends for scholarships

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 27, 2005 2:09 AM

Members of the Wayne County Board of Health have agreed to donate their monthly stipends to launch a scholarship fund for students participating in the Health Department's annual essay contest promoting teen abstinence.

Board member Donna Edmundson introduced the idea at the board's October meeting.

The contest has been set up for the top winners to typically receive $100, $50, and $25 worth of gift certificates as well as food coupons and t-shirts. Mrs. Edmundson said the board had discussed ways to increase the reward system so that it tied into something even more meaningful, such as scholarship money.

"There's nothing wrong with what we have been doing, but we can build on it," Mrs. Edmundson said. She suggested scholarships of $1,000, $500 and $250.

"We have listened to the abstinence essays. We have all of us talked about how impressive the young people were and how we would like to see this program grow," Mrs. Edmundson said.

"As we approach next year, I was thinking that we certainly can't speak for future boards, but for the year 2006 we have decided that we want to build a program.

Mrs. Edmundson asked board members to consider raising the first $1,000 themselves, allocating their first six months' checks. At $15 each for the 11-member board, that would easily reach the goal, she said.

"If we put our teeth into it and we say the Board of Health is doing this, we kind of put our money where our mouth is," she said.

While that assumes that each board member attends each meeting and agrees to pledge to the six-month effort, members at the recent meetings readily made the commitment.

"I would be willing to pledge all my money," said board member Dr. Michael Gooden. "That's the painless way to do it.

Gooden said he would like to see the "seed money" used to set up a fund the board could continue to contribute toward, but which others could also donate.

"This could be a community-driven thing," Mrs. Edmundson said.

"We just thought if the kids realized it was big and worth prioritizing, wouldn't it be great if one day we had this for juniors and seniors and then sophomores and freshmen? Those kinds of things where we'd help, (so that) those young people realize it's worth it."

Ken Stern, administrative officer for the Health Department, investigated the logistics of transferring the budgeted stipend members receive to attend meetings. Though it may seem nominal, he said, funds cannot be moved from one category to another without approval from the governing body, which is the county commissioners.

If board members want to donate what they receive back to the Health Department, however, they are free to do that, he said.

"They can make it a personal donation to the Health Department," he said, adding that the gesture would certainly "up the ante for the scholarship fund."