February 20, 2015

Farming family uses contest winnings to help St. Mary School in Rushville

By John Shaughnessy

Having the winning entry in a contest not only shocked Jeff and Dana Fussner, it also led to a nice surprise for the students and staff at St. Mary School in Rushville.

For years, the standing joke between the Fussners was that Jeff has never won anything. So they were stunned when the 55-year-old Rush County farmer’s entry won the America’s Farmers Grow Communities contest, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.

Winning the contest meant that the Fussners could donate $2,500 to the charity of their choice. After thinking about it, the couple decided to donate the money to St. Mary School even though neither of them attended the school or had a child who attended the school.

“There’s a whole bunch of places where it could have been put to good, but we thought this would be a good one,” said Jeff, a longtime member of St. Mary Parish in Rushville. “The kids always seem so good when they come out of there, and [Catholic] schools always have trouble coming up with money for things they need, so we thought this would be a good place for it.”

The donation was a welcomed surprise for the principal of St. Mary School.

“We are so thankful,” said Sherri Kirschner. “It’s one of those things where there are tight budgets in Catholic schools. We were talking about how we’d like to do certain things if we had the funds for them, and the next day they called about the donation. God does provide.”

The school will use the funds to help reach its goal of providing a new computer for every student by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

The Fussners are glad they could help.

“They were really excited,” said Jeff, who farms a 1,660-acre spread with his brother, Thomas Fussner, and their cousins, James and Richard Fussner. “We’re glad we could help. I’ve gone to the church there all my life, and I went to Sunday school there.”

Kirschner says the donation reflects the family’s generosity and faith.

“It’s instilled in their family that you give back,” said the principal. “And they have.” †

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