School foundation director to retire

GREENFIELD — To say Myra Bleill took the Greenfield Central School Foundation to the next level is probably an understatement, according to those who worked with her.

Bleill, executive director of the foundation that raises money to fund classroom projects and scholarships, will retire at the end of this month after two years of leadership.

It was a brief period but one that made a difference in local schools, officials said.

Bleill’s accomplishments include implementing the Red Letter Gala, the foundation’s largest fundraiser; creating the Greenfield-Central Alumni Hall of Fame; and developing new marketing materials, a website and online giving.

“She’s actually made the foundation to a level where it could be a seriously meaningful thing to our students,” said Dan Leary, member of both the school board and foundation board.

Bleill had a total of nearly 30 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit work, having worked for the American Red Cross and the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation.

While she had just retired from the hospital, school officials tapped her for a part-time position to transform the Set a Good Example Foundation to the Greenfield Central School Foundation.

Bleill said that, because her three children had gone to Greenfield-Central schools and she believed in the corporation and its teachers, she took on the new challenge.

“They would let me stay until I was 100, but I have grandchildren, and my husband is retired now, and we have the foundation on really good footing,” she said.

Board member Trent Smoll said Bleill’s energy is contagious, and she encourages members to stretch their limits and volunteer more.

Scholarships for students have increased under Bleill’s leadership, Smoll added.

He said she’ll be hard to replace, adding, “She knows everything.”

Board member Rachel Strong said the foundation went “from a toddler to a grown-up organization” under Bleill’s leadership.

“Myra has this ability to really just connect just about anyone,” Strong said. “She listens to everyone, and she really has that ability to kind of figure out what makes people tick, and she’s really done a great job of connecting that to how it can make a difference for the foundation and the schools.”

Special projects the foundation has funded in recent years include a rover for a high school team to compete in a NASA competition; an entomology presentation for students; and Kindergarten 101, which teaches youngsters who don’t have a background in preschool what to expect in their first year of school.

Greenfield-Central High School teacher Scott Klein said his team of students heading to Alabama this month for a NASA-sponsored competition have Bleill to thank.

Bleill secured a local sponsor for the program in which students handcraft rovers. Bleill also got the students free athletic training for cycling at Hancock Wellness Center in order to help them to operate the machines.

“She has many well-respected contacts in the community as well as in the school,” Klein said. “I don’t think you could find a better person. She’s working very hard to get the community businesses more involved with the school.”

Board member Becky Riley described Bleill as a people person who puts others at ease.

“She never comes into a meeting that she doesn’t know exactly what she needs to say,” she said.

Board members are interviewing candidates for the position and hope eventually to make it a full-time spot.

Meanwhile, Bleill is looking forward to spending more time with her seven grandchildren, ages 2 to 16, as well as a peaceful summer in her garden.

And she’s ready to pass the torch.

“I love this community; it’s a very, very generous community,” she said. “I just think it’s time for them to get the next person to take this to the next level.”