Volunteer spotlight on… Mike Vigunas

Mike-Vigunas--ColorJob: President, MAX International/MAXStick Products

Family: Wife Pam; son Matt, married to Katie; son Jason, engaged to Natalie; daughter Adrienne, married to Jim; and one granddaughter, Julianna.

What do you do for the Warwick Education Foundation? Over the years, I’ve had a few different positions, always engaged in raising awareness of the Foundation and what the Warwick Education Foundation is all about.  Currently, I chair the Development Committee.

How did you get involved, and why do you continue to volunteer? Back in 1997, Dr. Bonfield, superintendent at the time, asked a few people if we would be interested in starting an education foundation.  He wanted the Foundation to be independent from the school district so we would not be viewed as an “arm” of the district.  Dr. Bonfield made a compelling case that we could fund innovative educational experiences for students that could not be financed through the regular school funding channels.  I think we all believed that education is the great equalizer in our world, and if we could do something to help all the students in the Warwick School District, they could have the best educational experience possible.  In the beginning, we spent the first year or so just trying to put the structure of the Foundation together so it would be sustainable for years to come.  We started with “mini” grants for teachers who had submitted proposals for unique programs or teaching lessons.  We called them “mini” because we didn’t have much money at the time to donate.  We joked among ourselves that the first grant money just came out of our pockets since we were too embarrassed to not fund any programs.   We’ve come a long way since that time and in 2015-16, we will donate more than $150,000 to the Warwick School District for innovative educational programs and cutting edge technology.  Virtually 100% of the money we raise goes into funding these unique educational opportunities.

What are some of your favorite moments? Family Fun Day and Family Movie Night are my favorite activities with the WEF as they really give families a time to be together and just have fun and share time with each other.  These two activities were never meant to be “fundraisers”, but there is tremendous support from the community and businesses so that they don’t really cost the WEF anything.  However, my favorite moments are when we can donate money for programs that will have a real positive impact for as many students as we can in their educational experience.

What else would you like to share about WEF? At the beginning of 2015, the WEF reached $1,000,000 in money given to the Warwick School District to fund innovative educational experiences for the students and teachers of the District.  We’re looking to a sort of “celebration” as a thank you for the support the community has given the WEF over the years with the Lit Fest coming up this November.  Now we’re off to work on our second million and anyone who would like to volunteer their time and talent is always welcome.

By Katie Grisbacher