The Waterloo and Marshall school districts along with local first responders will be receiving a portion of a $20,000 grant provided to Farmers & Merchants State Bank. The funds are part of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s (FHLBank Chicago) COVID-19 Relief Program.

According to a release from FHLBank Chicago, the relief program is providing approximately $30 million to member institutions to use for zero-rate advances and grants. The bank had allocated enough funds for all member and associate member institutions to receive up to $20,000 for grants to be given to local small businesses or non-profits.

Kim Abraham, the vice president and CMO of Farmers & Merchants State Bank, said the local financial institution was pleased that its request was approved so quickly.

“We were really appreciative of the opportunity to receive and share the grant dollars. It’s a great feeling to hear that we are really helping, especially now in these crazy times,” she said.

F&M decided to provide grant funds to both public school districts, the Marshall/Waterloo food pantry, Waterloo Fire and EMS, Marshall Fire Department, and Marshall EMS.

“We chose the non-profits that could best serve the greater good in our communities, that being the first responders, the Marshall/Waterloo food pantry and the schools, which are also providing food to the students,” said Abraham.

Both school districts were grateful for the funds, which Abraham said have no stipulations on how the money is spent.

According to Waterloo School District Business Manager Sharon Peterson, when Superintendent Brian Henning learned the district was one of the recipients of the grant, he said, “This is fantastic! Great job Farmers and Merchants!”

“Unexpected has been the theme of our lives of late and this is a very positive unexpected happening,” said Peterson.

She said the district will consider how to best use the funds, but will ensure some of the money will be used to address the needs of students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marshall School District’s Business Manager, Bob Chady, had similar sentiments about receiving the money through F&M State Bank.

“The district was surprised to learn of the generosity of Farmers & Merchants State Bank and their desires to help support organizations and individuals in need within the communities that they serve during these unprecedented times,” he said. “Though, upon reflection, it really shouldn’t be surprising given their long standing presence in the Marshall community and their previous support of community causes.”

Chady said the district plans to use the money to support the community meal distribution program, which includes breakfast and lunch items. Children up to the age of 18 (or 21 for those with special needs) are able to pick up food Monday and Thursdays; both days combined provide meals for Monday through Friday. He said currently, the district has produced more than 12,000 daily meals.

“During a ‘normal’ school year, approximately 35-40% of our students rely upon the federal free and reduced price meal program for access to breakfast and/or lunch. During these past few months of school, community and social closure, we recognize that many more families have been adversely impacted and are struggling financially,” Chady said. “I would estimate that the number of families who might be eligible for free or reduced priced meals if they applied today would likely be in the 55-60% range.”

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