- The Chelsea Paige Foundation. By Rachel Kelly.
It was her turn, and she had forgotten her lines.
She was in sixth grade, and she had practiced every day for weeks. Not just on the stage with her teachers and peers; but everywhere else. In front of the mirror. On the bus. The words were in her head as she went about her classes and in front of her eyes as she drifted to sleep.
When the day came for her first performance, she felt confident that she knew her lines backward and forward; the only thing left to do was to get up there. To do it. And now she was here. And there were so many people! And the microphone made her voice so loud! And everyone was looking at her! Her stomach turned and she froze. She had forgotten all her lines! From down in the crowd the principal called out softly, “You can do it!” Taking a deep breath, she remembered all the times that she had done this already, all the hard work and time spent in dedication to this one moment. She could do it. She would do it. And she did do it.
“We just gave her space,” recalls Paige Shulte. Space to try, to reach, to fail and to succeed. It’s experiences like these that make Paige’s yearly contributions to the Peninsula School District worth it. The cost is so much less than the prize. Most recently, Paige’s nonprofit, the Chelsea Paige Foundation, was able to contribute a grant of $4,000 toward the performing arts. This grant was part of a larger contribution of $20,000, which is the largest of the yearly contributions thus far.
That might seem like a lot of money to come from one source, but the Chelsea Paige Foundation didn’t start out that way. Paige’s first contribution to education was to fund a hands-on in-school safari assembly. This first assembly was made possible by the contributions of just 10 moms; moms who on their own might not have thought they could do something great—but together they did.
This year’s contribution of $20,000 will go to a variety of hands-on in-school programs like Sky Dome, Bricks for Kids and Mobile Safari. Those are just three such activities, but the Chelsea Paige Foundation isn’t limited to just a few. The only requirement for activities is that they are “hands-on” education. While in-school activities and assemblies are preferred (this way all students present at school have access), the foundation even occasionally funds after-school activities. Contributions are also given to the Peninsula Education Foundation and Peninsula Hands on Art. There really is no limit to the hands-on opportunities available to children through this foundation. Where funding would normally be limited, or nonexistent, the Chelsea Paige foundation steps over the red tape to bring increased access and opportunity to the entire district.
The Chelsea Paige Foundation was able to contribute $4,000 toward performing arts programs in local schools, which is not a huge sum, but helps to accomplish a lot. A thousand of that is used for equipment for performances, ensuring that a student’s hard work isn’t spoiled by a faulty microphone. What’s incredible is that $4,000 is all that stands between children and these opportunities. Schools are even able to turn the contributions into a profit that goes back into education through ticket sales. The possibilities are enormous.
Paige’s only problem is in convincing schools that her business is legitimate, and that the programs offered are completely free. Unfortunately, schools are not used to receiving contributions and support from local businesses. The foundation certainly offers something unique. I imagine receiving a call from Paige offering awesome hands-on experiences in her direct off-hand way would come as quite a surprise. “You really want to come to our school and do that cool stuff for us?”
Thankfully that was not the case with the Peninsula Schools Education Foundation, which opted to receive the performing arts grant at this year’s fundraising breakfast. The breakfast, which was held in October, is the only fundraiser for the year. Galaxy Theatres has taken to giving an annual donation to the foundation in an ongoing effort to fund educational opportunities not covered by the school’s annual budget. Grant recipients are resources and programs that are requested directly by teachers. Projects receiving the grants offer a diverse range of education aimed at inclusivity of all students and schools. Previous grants have covered projects such as hands-on art, African drums, jewelry making, science innovations and A Voice for All Students. This year’s up-and-coming grant recipients will be announced June of 2020.
Paige doesn’t think of her yearly contributions as being unique, or even surprising. She simply thinks that giving back to her community is the most human thing to do; a natural by-product of being alive. Her real estate business is firmly established in the community, and to her community her business gives back. Proceeds from every transaction are given back to the community through the Chelsea Paige Foundation, allowing Paige to contribute to where her passion lies. In schools. In providing hands-on resources where so few exist. To fueling the dreams and creativity of kids. To growth. To culture. To pushing through nervousness to build a foundation of self-confidence and resilience.
She would say that everyone has the ability to give in some way, especially local business. One only has only to find their passion. Contributing to a thriving community can only benefit itself; every bit given finds its way back in that it contributes to the overall health of the entire whole. A community that gives back from what it receives only expands and thrives. There is no downside to the equation.
To look at the inspiring actions of the Chelsea Paige Foundation is to look at oneself and say, “What am I passionate about seeing happen?” Especially when taking into consideration its humble beginnings; 10 moms who got together and brought in new opportunities for their kids. So much can be done with so little. One never knows how personal actions will ripple out and affect others.
At the end of the day we are forced to acknowledge that we are small people with small businesses living in a small community. Our future is defined by these small things that we do for each other, actions that make a greater impact simply because the recipient is someone you know. It’s a child that you love.
So we are forced to ask: What is it about our community, what is it about our business, what is it about ourselves, that makes us human? Whatever that is, it is certainly worth giving to.