When an active duty or veteran Penn State student is in financial trouble, he or she has the opportunity to turn to the military student fund.
When the military student fund needs donations, Penn State can turn to the local business community.
In a short ceremony Tuesday, the State College Downtown Improvement District presented a check for $8,500 to the university — the result of fundraising efforts during last year’s military appreciation week by the business community to give to the student fund. DID Executive Director George Arnold said the district board unanimously agreed to partner with Penn State to gather money for the fund.
“On behalf of our downtown businesses, I’m pleased to say that 60 businesses this first time out of the gate ... jumped on board and contributed to the Penn State Military Student Fund,” Arnold said.
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President Eric Barron said the fund was established in 2014 and has awarded about $36,000 in scholarships to 19 students with an average award of $1,900.
“The average gift (to the fund) is $85,” Barron told business owners at the event. “So you are 100 times more than the average gift.”
Penn State’s relationship with the military is part of the university’s DNA, he said, going back to 1882. Today, he said, Penn State has one of the largest, oldest and most successful ROTC programs in the country.
Penn State is also one of the leading research universities associated with Department of Defense funding, he said, as faculty, students and staff conduct more than $200 million per year in military-related research.
The fund itself supports military-affiliated students as a needs-based scholarship, veterans affairs and services Senior Director Col. Eugene McFeely said. The fund has done everything from helping ROTC students who are having trouble making ends meet cover their tuition to helping veterans who have expended all of their GI benefits and need to cover those last few courses to get their degree.
“We did this all through the kindness of people,” McFeely said. “Kindness of people like those who make up the downtown businesses of the State College borough. We could never have done this alone.”
Local businessman Tony Ghaffari, who owns Your Cigar Den and is a Marine Corps veteran, said he donated 10 percent of his 2016 Veterans Day sales to the fund. He also said he’s been working with a few Penn State veterans to talk to local organizations about the special needs of veterans.
“I do everything I can for local vets,” Ghaffari said. “I know things have changed a lot since I was in the military and I feel like some of these guys, with everything they’ve done, they need a little more help.
“I happen to be in a position where I can do a little something, so I do it,” he said.
The 2017 Penn State Military Appreciation Week is slated to be held simultaneously with Homecoming Week, Nov. 5-12, Barron said. The military appreciation football game will be held Veterans Day, Nov. 11, against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.