Bruce Woods, one of the founding board members of the Merrillville Education Foundation, passed away on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, at the age of 78. He was a retired Merrillville teacher and admired community member of Northwest Indiana.
Bruce served in the United States Army in the 1960s and later went on to teach English at Merrillville High School from 1971 to 1999. He served for a time as department head and as a faculty adviser for the yearbook and school newspaper, along with directing high school plays. He was also an involved member of the Merrillville Classroom Teachers Association during his teaching career.
As a member of the MEF, Bruce was the Grant Committee Chairperson since the foundation’s inception 19 years ago and the past president for the last 3 ½ years. His willingness to help at any event was inevitable, and he was always there to support the foundation in any way he could. Bruce also completed scholarship scoring for the Crown Point Community Foundation, volunteered at Harbor Light Hospice and worked with Merrillville and Hobart Meals on Wheels.
Bruce was very involved in his community, and served as a member of many organizations including the Lake Court House Foundation; Lake County Historical Museum; Lake County Historical Society; Old Homestead Preservation Society; Crown Point Historic Preservation Commission; Merrillville Education Foundation; Merrillville Classroom Teachers Association; Lake County Public Library Board of Trustees; Lt. Gov. Calumet Division of Kiwanis; Merrillville, Gary and Hammond Kiwanis; Times Editorial Advisory Board; Association of Indiana Museums; Lake Michigan Coastal Advisory; Appointed County Historian; and County Historian Preservationist, according to his obituary.
Bruce received the Legacy Foundation’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2000, as well as the Indiana Historical Society’s Hubert Hawkins History Award in 2002. He was an exceptional human being and will be greatly missed by all.
The Merrillville School Board recently accepted a gift of $6,000 from the Merrillville Education Foundation to purchase hotspots for families who need internet connections.
During a normal school year, the foundation usually offers two rounds of grants to fund teacher projects based on innovative and creative approaches to learning in the classroom.
With the school corporation offering virtual learning during the first trimester, the foundation board chose instead to use its funds to help provide internet hookups for Merrillville families that have been challenged to provide basic internet for their children, a necessity when learning remotely.
“This year with the COVID-19 pandemic still upon us, we wondered if there was a different way the corporation could use our money to benefit the students besides the usual round of grants,” said Mary Hoffman, foundation executive director. “We also knew that teachers would be very busy with the challenges of e-learning and may not have time to write a grant this fall trimester.”
Hoffman said the donation should sponsor 25 hotspot set-ups.
“We greatly appreciate the funding from the education foundation,” said Steven Kerr, coordinator of network operations for Merrillville schools. “This will allow us to provide more students with internet access at home during virtual learning and in the future, as we expand the use of technology within the classroom.”
Kerr said the hotspots the school system uses are completely mobile and can provide the service to any of our families without any issues. He said they can also be reissued to different families as needed.
“The corporation has compliant filtering on those hotspots that will help keep our students safe,” Kerr said.
“With all these features in place, the MEF felt that our funds would be used wisely and are proud to, once again, work with the corporation for continued student success in school,” Hoffman said.
Since 2002, the Merrillville Education Foundation has awarded 436 grants to teachers totaling $378,082.66. These grants have impacted more than 119,476 student experiences in grades Pre-K through 12.
At an October meeting of the Merrillville Community School Corporation School Board, officers of the Merrillville Education Foundation presented a ceremonial check in the amount of $22,787.20 for awarded MEF grants during the 2016-17 school year. All funds were raised by MEF and went directly to a wide variety of programs impacting students at every school within the MCSC.
The presentation was made by MEF board members Mary Martin Hoffman, Marisa Smoljan, Bruce Woods, and Kathy Martin.
The grants for Round 28 were awarded in May of 2016. Fourteen grants totaling $7,656.71 were awarded to enhance learning experiences for Merrillville students in the areas of engineering, current events, social responsibility, health, science, reading, math and computer skills.
Since 2002, the Merrillville Education Foundation has awarded 231 grants to teachers totaling $223,918.04. These grants have impacted more than 73,136 students in grades K through 12.
The grants for Round 27 were awarded in November of 2015. Five grants totaling $1,830.20 were awarded to enhance learning experiences for Merrillville students in the areas of community service, health & science, social skills and special needs.
The grants for Round 25 were awarded in November of 2014. Ten grants totaling $7,341.87 were awarded to enhance learning experiences for Merrillville students in the areas of health, writing, math, reading, history and social skills.