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A longtime and anonymous supporter of the Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) is making a record $1 million contribution to an endowment fund to aid Signal Mountain public schools.

The donation will be invested to provide future income for the Foundation's mission of providing private support for strategic investment in educational programs and staff at Signal Mountain public schools.

"I believe in Signal Mountain schools and the Mountain Education Foundation," the anonymous benefactor said in a statement about the donation. "MEF provides tremendous, valuable resources that are key to helping students succeed."

Donations to the MEF Endowment are separate from gifts to the MEF Annual Fund. Annual fund donations are used to meet current needs and annual grants for Signal Mountain's three public schools, including funding 13 teacher salaries and more not covered by public dollars. The MEF Endowment is an investment fund designed for long-term sustainability of MEF's mission of supporting excellence in education for Signal schools, beyond what public funding provides.

Gifts to the endowment are not used for current school needs, but are invested for long-term impact and support. An endowment typically includes funds given to a nonprofit by donors who have stipulated as a condition of the gift that its principal may not be spent, and who expect that its value will increase over time.

"We are humbled by and so appreciate the trust evident in this tremendous gift and long-term donor support," said MEF Board Chair Dr. Jonathan Welch. "We're thrilled at this commitment to sustain our mission of striving for the best in education at Signal Mountain schools."

This long-term investment comes on the heels of a tough year for many nonprofits, including MEF. COVID-caused cancellations of three major fundraising events and other declining donations resulted in the loss of more than $150,000 in annual fund revenue for MEF.

Welch said while revenue has been down, the MEF-funded needs for students not only continued, but increased. MEF helped fill those revenue gaps with short-term COVID-related state and federal funding, and hopes for a return to some sense of normalcy around fundraising in the coming year.

"We hope and anticipate our community will continue their stalwart support even in this trying year," said Hilarie Robison, executive director for the Mountain Education Fund.

The Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade at Thrasher Elementary, Nolan Elementary, and Signal Mountain Middle and High School. These schools rely on donations to MEF for annual grant allocations that fund 13 staff positions, along with technology, professional development, student activities, teacher recognition, and other programs.

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