Linda Croushore

The Mon Valley Education Consortium got off to a modest enough start.

“In 1985, the Allegheny Conference gave us $5,000 and said, ‘See what you can to with this,'” says Linda Croushore, the organization’s executive director.

That was enough to start a program in McKeesport, Croushore’s hometown.

Today, the organization’s staff of 10 manages a $2 million budget raised from individuals, foundations, businesses and some fee-for-service work in five Western Pennsylvania counties — and it’s done plenty. The money goes into public school programs ranging from literacy initiatives to programs like “The Future is Mine” to encourage students to investigate opportunities in technical education.

Croushore is particularly proud of the “Great Idea” grants, nearly $1 million worth meted out in small amounts to schools, school districts and teachers to implement innovative, high-quality ideas for improving education.

This year, the consortium is working with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to offer literacy materials to new mothers, collect and redistribute used books through the food bank and hold an event-driven series of programs in cooperation with City Paper, the entertainment weekly.

That’s making $5,000 stretch a long way.

Ray Marano