The story of the Teressie White Memorial Scholarship Foundation is a tale about turning a terrible tragedy into a lasting benefit for the people of Aromas, a small community on the central coast. With the help of Silicon Valley Gives, the foundation hopes to extend those benefits to more students.
Teressie White was an active member of the Aromas Grange for 42 years. She ran a local store with her husband, tended their beautiful flower garden and acted as cashier for the monthly Grange Pancake Breakfast. In 1977 she was brutally murdered in her home, reportedly by a burglar who broke in to steal the Grange cash box, which was flush with the monthly breakfast receipts. The family asked the Aromas Grange to form a scholarship fund in her memory.
The scholarship fund grew slowly through donations, fundraisers and an annual contribution by the Grange of January pancake breakfast receipts. Between 1980 and 1989, 14 scholarships were awarded in amounts up to $500. Today, the Teressie White Memorial Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit organization in its own right, awarding a minimum of $4,000 annually to deserving students. “Our scholarship program is designed to create opportunities for students who might not qualify for most scholarships, with academic achievement, community service, and financial need given equal weight in the assessment process. We also consider special circumstances, like being the first in their family to go to college, or rising above particularly difficult circumstances,” says Grange member Jan Saxton.
Despite an annual silent auction and other events, fundraising remains a challenge, she says, in part because the community – split between San Benito and Monterey counties – is largely rural. “Reaching out to a larger base of individual donors through SVGives can make a huge difference for us,” Saxton says. “We know this makes Teressie White, her extended family, and the community of Aromas all very happy. Our scholarships help transform a terrible loss into a benefit for generations of students.”