Kiser pledges $25K matching grant for CCLC

Amid the clinking of glasses and chuckles from community members at last Saturday’s (July 13) eighth annual Sullivan Party to benefit the Child Care and Learning Center (CCLC), William and Mary Greve Foundation chairman John Kiser of Sperryville stood and laid out a challenge: The Greve Foundation pledged a $25,000 grant to benefit CCLC if donors matched it within six months.

John Kiser emerges from a cardboard outhouse on the Washington School stage at the 2001 CCLC auction to pledge a matching grant to fund new bathrooms for the children of CCLC. His charismatic act landed CCLC $35,000, and landed him a wife and a new life. And now he’s at it again . . . Courtesy photo.
John Kiser emerges from a cardboard outhouse on the Washington School stage at the 2001 CCLC auction to pledge a matching grant to fund new bathrooms for the children of CCLC. His charismatic act landed CCLC $35,000, and landed him a wife and a new life. And now he’s at it again . . . Courtesy photo.

By night’s end, guests produced $10,000 toward meeting the challenge. If the remaining $15,000 is raised by Jan. 13, the $50,000 in donations will finance much-needed capital improvements, including replacing flooring in the 28-year-old building and rehabbing the kitchen and appliances, none of which has been done since the building went up in 1985. What’s left will fund tuition scholarships for children whose families cannot afford full cost of daycare.

“Before talking about challenges, I thought I’d begin by saying a few words about why I’m particularly grateful for CCLC,” Kiser said before the crowd of more than 50 mingling in the back patio area of  Washington Mayor John Sullivan and his wife Beverly’s home. “CCLC is actually responsible for changing my life. And how did that happen? Well they always honored me by giving me very important tasks to do glamorous things. And one of the more important ones, several years ago, was to help them raise money for toilets.”

Kiser was referring to CCLC’s annual fall auction of 2001, when the Washington School stage curtains opened mid-auction to reveal a contemplative Kiser, pants at his ankles, sitting in cardboard refrigerator box outhouse. He stood and snatched the microphone from the auctioneer, declared the building’s bathrooms a disgrace, and pledged to give $2 for every dollar donated that night. A total of $35,000 was raised, and new bathrooms were constructed later that year.

“As we know, bathrooms are very important institutions, because that’s where education begins. And that’s where we learn all-American values: on-time delivery, accuracy, regularity,” Kiser said to the tune of laughter from the crowd.

“What I did not know was that, in the crowd, was a beautiful young woman, much younger than me, who’s here tonight. And that woman happens to be my wife, Pam, who for some reason appreciated my antics. And very shortly thereafter, we were married and had a child, the wonderful Pierce Kiser. So if it hadn’t been for CCLC, my life would be that of a boring bachelor out in the woods. And instead I have a whole new life.

“So that’s my attitude, and I want to challenge you to match my gratitude with your gratitude, to an institution that we all know is very important to the community — not only because of the little kids who we’ve trained to pee accurately, but also because, as important, it helps many adults keep their jobs and work.” Kiser continued. “So the challenge is very simply this: The Greve Foundation is challenging you to cough up $25,000 to match this $25,000, in the next six months. And if you’re so disposed to get your checkbooks out tonight and start writing, you’re free to do so.”

The National Association for the Education of Young Children recognizes CCLC with full accreditation. Of the 3,489 daycare centers in Virginia, only 105 have this accreditation.

“The accreditation is very important; it’s important to the families that they know that our staff have training and we have programs, and that for 37 years we’ve been dedicated to providing this kind of nurturing environment – to not only infants and toddlers, 3-year-olds and pre-Ks, we also have school-age kids and before- and after-school programs, as well as a summer camp,” CCLC board chairman John Lesinski said.

“The center’s existence helps parents be able to work while they have a safe haven for their children that is enriching, nurturing, educational and recognized as one of the top programs in the state,” said CCLC’s executive director of 24 years, Rose Ann Smythe. “Last year we served 117 children, half of whom received tuition assistance. Those that can afford to pay, do. And those that can’t, we raise money through donations. Our mission at CCLC is to serve  a representative cross-section of our community’s children — and not everyone in Rappahannock can afford quality daycare. Donors to and volunteers for CCLC make that possible.”

Funding preschool scholarships are donors such as the benefit party’s co-host, John Sullivan: “It’s a good cause, and there’s good people teaching there. Plus, the number of people you run into in this county who went to that school when they were little, and who are now mature, clearly appreciate what CCLC did for them.”

The William and Mary Greve foundation was started by Kiser’s grandmother and step-grandfather, William Greve, who Kiser described as poor kid from Brooklyn with a head for numbers who amassed his wealth through financial investments in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.

“He always said to me, ‘Boy, just remember one thing: Money talks,’” Kiser said. “As an 8-year-old, I didn’t really understand that. Though now I do.”

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