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A play raise: Donation will pay for playground upgrade at Newport Elementary

Newport Elementary School principal Rich Romano shows the school's ramshackle soccer nets to Barbara Lacher of MidWestOne Bank. The Bank's donation of $15,000 will help pay for new outdoor equipment. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
Newport Elementary School will receive a much-needed upgrade to their playground, thanks to a $15,000 donation from MidWestOne Bank. Bank executive Barbara Lacher presented principal Richard Romano with the check Aug. 30. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Newport Elementary School will get a much-needed upgrade to its playground, thanks to a donation from MidWestOne Bank.

Barbara Lacher, second vice president retail managing officer at the bank's Newport office, presented principal Rich Romano with a $15,000 check at the school's open house Aug. 30. Bailey Nurseries will donate $1,000, Lacher said.

"It's just been a school in need, and being in the community we are in a position to be able to help," she said.

"We're just thrilled," Romano said.

Districtwide, Newport has the highest percentage of lower-income students in the free or reduced-price lunch program.

"There's a huge need for equipment," Lacher said. "This school has a hard time coming up with five, six, seven thousand dollars in fundraising."

In April, she applied to the MidWestOne Foundation, the bank's charitable arm, for $15,000 to buy playground equipment. She also applied for $50,000 to provide Newport with healthy snacks for two years. She and her co-workers at MidWestOne had already been pooling their own money to supplement the school lunch program with quarterly trips to Sam's Club to buy kids peanut butter crackers, apples, goldfish crackers, pretzels, applesauce and fruit cups.

"We began donating healthy snacks to Newport Elementary because they are a little gem in our community," Lacher said. "There's a large number of the families that are on the poverty line that go to school in Newport. It was in our best interests to try to see what we could do for them."

Another applicant got the $50,000, but Newport students could be swinging and climbing on new playground equipment by next spring.

One thing couldn't wait, however: new soccer nets.

"We had some very low quality soccer nets, falling apart," Romano said. "The nets are broken. I talked to Barb and said, 'What if the school goes ahead and buys the new soccer nets?'"

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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