A fundraiser set up to save Mobile’s historically Black Catholic school is more than halfway to its goal, but like Carnival, the activity will end on Fat Tuesday.
Donors have already raised $170,000 of the requested $300,000 through a GoFundMe page. The total is what is needed to cover the annual budget for Heart of Mary Catholic School, organizer and alumnus Karlos Finley said. In less than a month, donors have given about $112,000.
“This is proof the power of faith works,” Finley, who is a member of the school’s board, said. “This has the hand of God all over it.”
Fueled by donations from all over the country and as far away as Canada, the chances of reaching the goal are good, Finley said, as organizers have something in the works to raise more than the requested $300,000. The largest single donation was an anonymous one for $50,000, he said.
“We’re getting GoFundMe donations as well as checks,” Finley said. “It’s happening from all over the place, from all over the country. Nuns and priests who taught at Heart of Mary in the 1960s and 1970s are donating to keep the school open.”
The 121-year-old school has been in danger of closing for years. The Archdiocese of Mobile had decided to close it for good a few years back, but an effort from the community to save it resulted in the school going independent. However, the strain put on the school’s budget by too few students forced the school board to vote to close the school in July.
If the fundraiser is successful, Finley said, the school board could vote to rescind the previous decision to close the school and let it remain open.
There are a number of issues related to recruitment of students for the school, which has a student body of 80. The community the school has traditionally drawn from is not as large as it used to be, Finley said. In addition, newer public schools have been built. It has also been harder than usual to recruit students, he said, because school officials were unable to go into local churches to find students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the donations fall short of the goal, Finley said, the escrow account holding the money will be dissolved and the donors will all get their money back.
“I feel very confident at this point that not only will we have what we need, but we’ll have more than that,” he said.
However, Finley encouraged folks to continue donating despite his confidence, because the organizers of the effort want to find a more sustainable solution than relying on donations to keep the school open every year.
Allen Cleghorn, a Mobile resident and advocate for keeping Heart of Mary School open, said the students at the school in an economically depressed area deserve a good education. He’s argued that Catholic Charities should help keep Heart of Mary and other local Catholic schools open for students.
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