‘It’s been a game changer’ Branson takes proactive approach in student mental health

School districts are doing more for students and families these days than ever and Branson is no exception.

In 2018, Branson School District received a two-year, $86,000 grant to expand mental health services for students. The Skaggs Legacy Endowment grant allowed the district to add a part-time case manager and gave the district funds to provide professional mental health counseling services to students who otherwise could not afford these vital services.

Since that time, the program has evolved. The district’s current grant from Skaggs Foundation continues to fund the part-time case manager and a separate Skaggs Legacy Endowment grant, this one to Burrell Behavioral Health, funds counseling sessions for any uninsured or underinsured student in Stone or Taney counties, include Branson students.

“It’s been a game changer,” said Lisa Furtkamp, who splits her time as the part-time case manager and social worker for the district. “The amount of self-harm and suicidal ideations has increased so much in just the past five years. This grant gives us a chance to get these kids the help they need.”

DeAnna Sheets, director of curriculum, assessment and federal programs, said today, more than 7 percent of Branson students are receiving some form of school based mental health service and more students are being referred for counseling each week.   

That’s where Furtkamp comes in; she works with parents to see that necessary paperwork gets filled out, helping to expedite services for students. She even goes as far as meeting the parents to pick up paperwork or arrange rides for the families for in-person intakes.

For children who do not qualify for Medicaid, do not have private insurance or are underinsured, Skaggs Foundation’s grant to Burrell Behavioral Health fills in that gap. The grant provides a funding source for services for those students, ensuring no student is denied services due to the inability to pay.

“With Lisa’s work and these grants, we are removing barriers so students can receive necessary services,” Sheets said.

In 2020, Skaggs Foundation awarded 25 Skaggs Legacy Endowment grants, including the mental health grants to Branson School District and Burrell Behavioral Health.

Since 2013, the foundation has awarded more than $5.9 million in grants to organizations improving health and wellness in Stone and Taney counties. Skaggs Foundation is accepting grant applications and letters of intent now through 5 p.m. April 30. Visit our grants page to learn more about opportunities available through Skaggs Legacy Endowment.

Over $85,000 in Power Up Grants awarded to local teachers

Contact: Cassie Cunningham, CCC – Manager of Communications & Member Engagement
Office: 417-335-9231; Cell 417-849-1148
Email: ccunningham@whiteriver.org

Branson, Missouri – The White River Valley Electric Trust Board proudly awarded over $85,000 to be
dispersed throughout local schools to enhance the education of area students. Teachers located at
schools within White River Valley Electric Cooperative’s five-county service were eligible to apply for
monies through Power Up — the organization’s annual educational grant program.
“Projects that utilize funding from Power Up have a positive impact on classrooms in our communities,”
said Nathan Stearns, WRVEC Community Programs Coordinator. “We are proud to offer a grant program
that aids teachers in providing a well-rounded education to area students.”
To be considered, proposals need to promote higher learning and meet school standards. Teachers are
required to submit their plan, itemized list of supplies (not to exceed $750), and a letter of project
approval from the school district’s administrative office. Out of 184 applications, 135 were approved.
“This was our most competitive year to date,” said Stearns. “We would like to congratulate the winners
and hope that increased competition will drive innovation and student influence.”
Power Up educational grants are funded through Operation Round Up – the Trust’s primary funding
source for community-centric aid. Funds come from cooperative members who allow their bills to be
rounded-up to the next dollar. Since ORU began 28 years ago, more than $4 million has been returned
to the community.
View the full list of Power Up educational grant recipients at


White River Valley Electric Cooperative is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative dedicated to ensuring our members receive safe and reliable service in their homes and businesses across five southwest Missouri counties including Ozark, Taney, Stone,
Christian and Douglas.

City Celebrates Student’s Birthday Wish

By Madison Bryan for the Branson Tri-Lakes News (reprinted)

A birthday is always a joyous occasion and the city of Branson got to help one man’s 21st be one that he’ll cherish forever.

Paul Ferguson, a water tower enthusiast and student at Barnabas Prep, got to celebrate his 21st birthday with a personalized tour of Branson’s special Pacific Water Tower.

With the help of Barnabas Prep, the city of Branson Utilities Department and city staff were able to not only gift Paul with a special tour on his birthday but also welcomed him with “Happy Birthday” being played on the trumpet by H.R. Risk Manager Bob Smither, some city swag to take home and a birthday cake.

Paul said that he loved the offices located inside the water tower and the fifth floor that sits directly below where the water is held.

“When I first got the call from Laura (administrative assistant) at Barnabas, all of us were really thrilled that (Paul) was enamored with water towers, and that gave us a chance to show this tower off because when it was built it was only the second water tower in the country that had offices in it,” said Smither. “It was great for us to kind of show it off a little bit to someone who it was really going to mean a lot to. We were just all excited about it, and getting to put this whole thing together (for Paul).”

“Not everybody looks at a water tower and is (amazed). Now Paul is going to have a better view now that he’s seen the inside (and have) a whole different perspective than he would have before. So we’re really happy that we could share that.”

According to their website, Barnabas Prep is a residential collegiate program for young adults with special needs located in Branson. This Christ-centered community helps students develop a variety of independent living and vocational skills. Visit BarnabasPrep.org for more information.

Junior Auxiliary Of Taney County Replenishes School Supplies

Good news from the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County website

Junior Auxiliary Of Taney County Replenishes School Supplies

School teachers have been on the front lines this year as they provide our children, our country’s most precious asset, with a healthy learning environment.  Junior Auxiliary was pleased to provide $50 gift cards to 27 teachers in Bradleyville Elementary, Kirbyville Elementary, Mark Twain, and Taneyville schools to purchase items they need for their classrooms.

JATC gave these schools a variety of school supplies in September and in January provided another refresher donation of supplies which included: composition notebooks, wide-ruled paper, wide ruled 1-subject notebooks, 2 pocket folders, crayons, pencils, mechanical pencils, pencil sharpeners, colored markers, ink pens, colored pencils, glue sticks, scotch tape, scissors, index cards, highlighters, rulers, erasers, Expo markers, etc.  Other items designed to help keep the kids healthy such as hand sanitizer, Kleenex, Lysol spray, paper towels, and Clorox wipes were also donated. Gloves, stocking hats, socks, and underwear rounded out the donation to these schools.

Junior Auxiliary members collect high demand items all year.  They shop the sales and save them up for this time of year when the schools run low. The budget allotted for this project allows JA to purchase extra things schools need at this time of year, along with purchasing the teacher Gift Cards, and JA Members supplement the supplies with their donations.  This year the Tri-Lakes Board of Realtors Good Neighbor Fund also provided support for this project through a grant to JATC.

Lara Ernsting, Principal at Kirbyville Elementary said “Kirbyville Elementary is very pleased to partner with the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County to continue to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children to learn. The teachers and students will put the school supplies to great use. Thank you Junior Auxiliary.”

 School Supplies is one of many service projects that JATC members provide for the community. Other JATC projects include Tender Critters for children in trauma; Prom Dresses for girls in need; financial and labor support for the Women’s Crisis Center including birthday parties and child care for the children so moms can attend counseling sessions; Santa’s Gift House; Book Swap for children who live in extended-stay motels; and Scholarships for each of the four high schools in Taney County.

Donations for this project and others that JATC provides to the community can be sent to JATC, PO Box 862, Hollister, MO 65673.  More information can be found on the Junior Auxiliary website JATCMO.ORG, their Facebook page, Junior Auxiliary of Taney County or via email at jatcmo@gmail.com.

 Members raise money for this and other projects through one major event – a fun Trivia Challenge with dinner, and a Silent Auction.  This year the 20th Annual Trivia Challenge and Silent Auction will be held at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson on May 8, 2021.

Come join us at “JATC Trivia Goes Platinum, Celebrating 20 Years of Trivia”.  We hope you will save the date and come help us support the children of Taney County.

We also invite you to support us at Mr. G’s Pizza & Pub Annual JATC Days on February 24 and 25 from 11 am – 8 pm.  You may dine-in or carry out, and 50% of your purchase will be donated to JATC.  All you have to do is mention that you support JATC.

JATC raises money from other events such as Belk’s Charity Days, as well as donations from corporate charitable giving (e.g., Amazon Smile, Microsoft, Walmart, and White River Electric), generous local businesses and churches (e.g., Branson’s Cowboy Church located at God & Country Theatre, Doug Baker State Farm Insurance, Ozark Mountain Ear Nose & Throat, 417 Fundraising, Branson Bank, Central Bank, Ollis, Akers & Arney Insurance, Edward Jones-Mitch and Jennifer Holmes, Edward Jones-Mac McGregor, and Lowe’s.)

JATC is more than a nonprofit organization, it’s a group of women united by a single cause.  We are dedicated to helping and making a difference in the lives of the children of Taney County. That’s the magic of JATC.  It was chartered by a group of caring, enthusiastic women in 1998 and continues to grow and thrive throughout Taney County.  Approximately 50 members annually contribute more than 4,000 volunteer hours as they strive to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of children in Taney County.

JATC is part of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA), a non-profit organization founded in 1941 with headquarters in Greenville, Mississippi.  NAJA has more than 15,500 active, associate and life members in 98 chapters located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.  Their slogan is “Caring Hearts—Helping Hands—Changing Lives”.

Arvest Foundation Donates $225K to Ozarks Area Nonprofits

Sharing good news as reported in the Springfield Business Journal

The charitable arm of Arvest Bank issued $225,000 in grants to local nonprofits.

More than 40 organizations from Springfield, Aurora, Branson, Lebanon, Marshfield and Mountain Grove received funding, according to a news release issued this week.

Officials with the Arvest Foundation declined to disclose the donation amounts for all nonprofits, but photos released show $7,500 for the CoxHealth Foundation, $5,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks and $2,500 for The Drew Lewis Foundation Inc.

“All of the recipient organizations are doing important work that empowers and assists many of our neighbors in need,” said Kyle Hubbard, president for Arvest Bank in Springfield, in the release. “We trust these grants reinforce our commitment to the communities we are here to serve.”

CoxHealth Foundation President Lisa Alexander said the funding is going toward a garden of metal tulips at the health care system’s south Springfield campus. Announced last month, each planted tulip represents five patients who have been discharged after receiving treatment for COVID-19. The garden started last month with 300 flowers.

“The tulip garden is a celebration of those lives that have been given great care and returned to their families after fighting COVID-19,” Alexander said in the release.

The Arvest Foundation’s grants focus on K-12 education, economic development and quality-of-life enhancements.