Giving back is the Gibbel creed

By on August 3, 2016
Henry H. and Henry R. Gibbel of Lititz Mutual Insurance Company, located at the square in downtown Lititz, have a passion for local education.

Henry H. and Henry R. Gibbel of Lititz Mutual Insurance Company, located at the square in downtown Lititz, have a passion for local education.

Henry H. Gibbel and his son Henry R. Gibbel are both firm believers in education.

The elder Gibbel is chairman of Lititz Mutual Insurance Company, while his son is president and chief executive officer. The fourth generation family business was started in 1888.

The elder Gibbel graduated from Lititz High School in 1953, when they were still the Pretzels (pre-Warwick Warriors), recalling that his father was on the school board when the school was built in 1917. Henry R. Gibbel graduated from Warwick High School in 1977.

“We were all born and raised in Lititz, and we think that businesses should always give back to the community we serve,” says Henry H. Gibbel. “One of the best ways we can do that is through education.”

So, when the Gibbels heard about the Warwick Education Foundation that was started by then-superintendent the late John R. Bonfield in 1997, they were interested in doing their part.

The idea behind the Warwick Education Foundation was to bring community leaders together to support local education. With support from local businesses and the community, the WEF has become the leading provider of funds that enhance student education in the Warwick School District.

“We love to see what our funding has helped with,” says the elder Gibbel. “It means a lot to us. We went to these schools, family members have served on the school board, and our children and grandchildren have been educated here.”

The programs the Gibbels help to fund might include elementary music initiatives that teach the basics of playing the ukulele, or creating a hurricane in a science lab. They are programs that might go beyond the normal school curriculum to supplement classroom essentials.

“The mission of the WEF is to promote, enhance and endow enriched educational teaching and learning opportunities within the Warwick School District,” explains WEF board member Michael Vigunas.

Vigunas stresses that even though Bonfield was the superintendent of the Warwick School District at the time the foundation was organized, he was emphatic that the WEF not be viewed as an extension of the school district.

“It was to be an independent organization. The programs funded by the WEF were to be innovative and unique learning experiences for as many students of the WSD as possible,” says Vigunas, adding that money donated to the Warwick School District does not complement, supplement or replace lost funding of regular curriculum.

In the years that Lititz Mutual has been funding the foundation, they have donated more than $260,000 in educational program support for reading programs, computer programs, science labs, art projects and much more.

“Education is critical to the health and success of our community,” says the younger Gibbel, adding that educational tax credit programs like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) make it possible for businesses to make direct contributions within their own community.

Barb Mobley of the WEF board applauds businesses like Lititz Mutual that partner within the community to enhance the educational enrichment and unique learning experiences for every Warwick School District student.

The goals of the WEF are to create a sustainable partnership between the school district and the community to invest in our students, support imaginative and creative teachers and other educational personnel, to finance programs that fill gaps not funded by traditional sources of revenue, to enhance educational opportunities and experiences for students of all ages, and to enrich educational values and cultural experiences of students by extending their opportunities with creative and innovative programs.

Since its inception, WEF has contributed more than $1.2 million to support education in the Warwick School District.

There are Innovative Education Grants, Experts in Residence grants, EITC approved programs, community grants and technology grants. Thanks to the WEF, more than 240 iPads with synchronization carts were provided for grades 1-6 at all four elementary schools. At Warwick Middle School, 75 MacBook Air laptop computers were purchased for students. The total investment in technology has been $177,784, with more than 2,700 students impacted by the contribution.

“Our next phase will be laptop computers for Warwick High School,” says Mobley.

Henry R. credits the EITC program for making it possible for companies like his to support the local school district. Started in 2001 by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, EITC offers corporations tax credits for donating to organizations that support Pennsylvania education. Approved businesses can receive tax credit when they make contributions to support state-approved innovative educational programs.

Through the EITC, 70 percent of a business donation can be credited towards the business’ state taxes when a company contributes for one year. That percentage jumps to 90 percent when a business contributes for two years.

“We would like other companies to see the advantages of this program. It helps education. It helps the community. And it helps local businesses,” says Henry R.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story ideas at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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