Angela Hefel (left), Community KIDS Preschool teacher; Greg Evans, Merchants Bank president; and Tracy Howell, preschool educational assistant; pose with Community KIDS preschoolers, Adrian, Kennadi, Susie, Ella, Wesley and Pacey, and the new caterpillar tunnel.

Foundation for WAPS Gala benefits preschool


Greg Evans, Merchants Bank president, made a visit to the Community KIDS Preschool on St. Patrick’s Day. He was welcomed by preschool staff and the students who were sporting their construction paper leprechaun hats. Everyone was excited to show Evans their new gross motor equipment in the “zoom room.”

The Community KIDS Preschool received proceeds from the 2016 Urban Elegance Gala hosted by the Foundation for Winona Area Public Schools with lead sponsorship by Merchants Bank. All WAPS schools which cover early childhood through grade 12 received funds from gala proceeds to use to enhance academics, athletics, arts and activities. As Community KIDS Preschool Coordinator Stephanie Gilliland explained, “Young children learn through play and that is a basic tenet of our preschool and early learning offerings. Our preschool budget does not allow for many purchases of major play equipment, so these proceeds were a real boon to what we have to offer our young learners. We were able to buy a play house that allows for kids to imagine many creative situations from home to the ice cream store to a stage. Additionally we purchased trikes, a caterpillar tunnel and a creative play piece to be installed later in our outdoor early learning play space. We are grateful to the foundation, Merchants Bank, and all the donors for this great opportunity.” Preschool teacher Angela Hefel added, “The children have also benefited from smaller play items such as balls and scarves to use in many ways to learn through play.”

Evans enjoyed his time at the preschool interacting with the children and posing for photos with them and some of the newly purchased equipment. He learned a great deal about the mission of the Community KIDS Preschool, a program of WAPS Community Education, and the Early Childhood Center at Goodview School.  

Merchants Bank has, without hesitation, proudly served as a lead sponsor of the Foundation for Winona Area Public Schools Galas since its inception in 2011. Each year, with the help of the bank’s lead sponsorship, the foundation has offered gala proceeds in support of classroom SMART Boards, the TL21 implementation of Chromebooks for WAPS students in grades 3-12, and, most recently, granting schools proceeds to apply to the purchase of materials or equipment that support academics, athletics, arts and activities.

Evans stated, “We, at Merchants Bank, know that a strong public school system is vital to assuring a strong community. We wholeheartedly support the efforts of the foundation to support students and classrooms in the Winona Area Public Schools and are happy to offer our donation as lead sponsors to ensure a successful event where participants enjoy celebrating public education and donating to fundraising efforts benefiting our kids.”  

The 2017 foundation event, “Blues and Brews,” again with lead sponsorship from Merchants Bank, will be held on Saturday, April 8, from 6:15-10 p.m. at Jefferson Pub & Grill and the adjoining Island City Brewing Company at 65 Lafayette Street. To find out about ticket availability, contact Shelley Milek, Foundation for WAPS executive director, at 494-1004. Proceeds will again benefit academics, arts, athletics and activities. If you are unable to attend the April 8 event, donations are gladly accepted. Online donations can be made at using PayPal, or a check made to the Foundation for WAPS can be mailed to Foundation for WAPS, 1570 Homer Road, Winona, Minn., 55987.


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