Posted: Oct. 24, 2016 11:35 am
QUINCY, Ill. — The teachers at St. Edward Catholic School have taken to calling the school the “Miracle in Chillicothe.”
Although Gino Grivetti is quick to point out he did not directly save the elementary school he attended, it is still open today because he set off a chain of events that ultimately saved the institution. Grivetti, a student at Quincy University, kicked off a fundraising campaign that netted $100,000 in 24 hours and $500,000 in one week.
“I’ve been reminding people I did not save the school. I did not donate $500,000,” Grivetti said. “All these members of the community saved the school. What I did, if I did anything, is I believed in these people first.”
Last July while home for the summer, Grivetti heard St. Edward had been abruptly closed following the discovery of asbestos during an inspection. The cost to remove all the asbestos would be more than $500,000. It was decided that the parish would have one week to raise the money.
“It didn’t look like it was going to be possible,” Grivetti said. “We had a week to get half a million dollars.”
Grivetti’s first step was to start the “Save St. Edward School” page on gofundme.com.
“The first thing that happened was somebody donated $5. I kind of laughed, thinking, ‘We’re never going to get enough money,'” Grivetti said.
After mass the following day, Grivetti called some of the elder parishioners to ask for a pledge of $10,000.
“My idea was we would get 40 people to donate $10,000, which would then trigger a loan from the diocese to make up the rest,” Grivetti said. “By the end of Sunday, I had gotten together 10 people willing to donate that much and published it online.”
Grivetti assumed the campaign had topped out there.
“There’s not that many rich people, and these are people dipping into their retirement funds,” Grivetti said. “This wasn’t like millionaires or anything.”
After initial interest had been sparked, Grivetti no longer had to make phone calls. He had a constant stream of would-be donors approaching him.
“By Wednesday, we were kind of floating just under $400,000,” Grivetti said. “The checks were coming in, and we were still getting new pledges. Friday at high noon was the deadline. By high noon, we had in fact gotten the $500,000.”
The Chillicothe Bible Church offered to house the almost 100 displaced St. Edward students until work could be completed on the building, ensuring students would not fall behind.
“It was kind of a disbelief. As it kept coming in, I kept saying we’ve exhausted it. There’s nothing more,” Grivetti said. “I certainly didn’t believe it could happen, and I don’t think anyone else did either.”
Had St. Edward been unable to reopen, the loss would have been “a major part of our Catholic identity here,” St. Edward Principal Mark Domico said.
“Gino took it upon himself to publicize this, and then the parents, the parishioners and the community took ownership,” Domico said. “It has been a very exciting week to say the least.”
For Grivetti, keeping St. Edward open also meant keeping his younger brother and sister in school.
“Gino is an alumnus. His entire family is very proud of this school,” Domico said. “We teach Christian values, and our leaders walk the walk all day. But you can definitely tell when the parents have had a tremendous impact.”
Domico noted St. Edward is highly touted for its academic excellence. Grivetti is an example of that academic excellence carrying over to higher education. Through a combination of summer classes, advanced placement exams and overloaded schedules, Grivetti will graduate Quincy University next semester despite having only completed high school in 2015.
“Only once or twice in a lifetime do you have a chance to do something really great,” Grivetti said. “The least you could do is try and attempt that.”