Moab Happenings Archive
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There’s magic afoot, but the Grand County Education Foundation
is not an illusion
by Nancy Kurtz

Melodie McCandless is chair of the 8-member Board of the Grand County Education Foundation and hard-working parent of three Grand County students. A vivacious brunette with roots in Moab, she is refreshingly candid about the nonprofit’s free-wheeling profile.

If you are enrolled in any of Grand County’s schools, or connected in any way, shape, or form with those same schools, you well know of the GCEF as the peripatetic patron that funds things like bus rides to sundry extracurricular events, regularly donates to Grand County Area Mentoring and other nonprofits via grant requests, provides scholarship money to at least one student every year, bolsters the bank accounts of the high school marching band and other school related activities via ticket sales, and supports a program that helps kids with vision problems by buying them free glasses.

What McCandless calls the “cherry on top” - over and above the basics covered by the school district - makes this provider of volleyball uniforms, audiovisuals and other supports to the schools - as well as to educational nonprofits such as the Canyonlands Field Institute and the Youth Garden Project -- one of those home-grown organizations that since its beginnings in ’09 has quietly become a part of the community bedrock.

GCEF relies on volunteers and the students themselves to help with logistics and ticket sales to fundraising events. Bookkeeping is done on a shoestring and GCEF has no office space of its own. “We try to keep our costs really low,” McCandless says, adding, “There are moments we’ve had zero money. We’ve given it all away.”

While there are those, including McCandless, who would like to see the organization grow, the fact that the war chest is a moveable feat gives her and GCEF a unique sense of freedom. “We don’t have to go through hoops to make a decision,” she says. That allows them to suss out - often by word of mouth - ad hoc funding targets at any given moment.

“Anything that happens in the community for the kids,” she emphasizes, “can ask for support from GCEF.”
Funding comes from numerous sources. One of the most lucrative is a quarterly paycheck from Moab City Market’s rewards program, supplemented by other donations on the website and elsewhere, while what has morphed into a frequent visit from David DaVinci, a man of magic, mystery and enchantment around this time of year is GCEF’s most popular public event.

Billed a “Thrillusionist”, DaVinci’s dramatic “beyond reality” show is not only family-friendly, he is the perfect counterpart to the spirit of GCEF.

What started with an initial contact by local realtor Ludean Merritt has led to what has become somewhat of a GCEF staple. DaVinci, whose website boasts of a touring schedule that whisks him worldwide to six continents, will perform his lights and shadows on the stage of Grand County High School. “It’s exciting,” McCandless says of the show, “light and hand movements to create illusions.” The idea being, she adds, “that magic is not real.”

The nitty gritty: For those wishing to volunteer, make donations, ask questions or make grant requests, McCandless can be reached at 435-259-9797. Also check out the website,, where there is event information and a link to GCEF’s Facebook page. For those wishing to participate at a deeper level, the Board meets the third Thursday of every month at 4 p.m. in the conference room of Moab Realty, 301 400 East.

And of course - there’s the very real magic show October 4, 7 p.m. at the Grand County High School auditorium.
Be sure to mention you read about the Grand County Education Foundation in Moab Happenings.

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