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Billings Catholic Schools will receive a check for more than $341,000 from the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation today during an all-schools Mass at Central High.

Jan Haider, executive director of the foundation, said the money will go toward the system's general operating fund. Billings Catholic Schools is a private school system and serves nearly 1,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Billings Catholic Schools Foundation presents a check from its endowment fund to the school system each year. The check is about $20,000 more than last year's, Haider said.

Because it is a private system, the yearly check is important because the schools depend on money from parish contributions, tuition, endowment interest and fundraisers to operate.

"People are very generous," Haider said. "They like to support faith-based education."

Today's check represents about 6.5 percent of the system's $5.2 million operating budget for the 2008-09 school year.

Since the foundation's inception in 1973, it has given $3.78 million to Billings Catholic Schools.

"For the first couple of years, it paid out around $50,000," Haider said. "Now, about 35 years later, people keep sending money, and that's just great."

Money for the endowment is gathered through individual donors and gift annuities.

Students and staff from St. Francis Primary (grades K-2), Intermediate (grades 3-5) and Upper (grades 6-8) schools and Central are scheduled to be in the Central gym by 9:30 a.m. for Mass. The foundation will present the check immediately following mass, at about 10:30 a.m.

Since Monday, staff, students and volunteers have been participating in Catholic Schools Week, a nationwide celebration and recognition of Catholic schools. Friday's donation caps off the week for the four Billings schools.

"All throughout the week our schools have been doing different events," said Nate Tracy, Billings Catholic Schools' marketing director. "We're celebrating different aspects of Catholic schools in the community."

The theme for this year's week was "Celebrate Service." Each day of the week, people within Billings Catholic Schools were honored.

Principals took their staff out for lunch, volunteers were honored and recognized and students took part in activities focused on the community.

On Monday, kids at St. Francis Primary held a prayer service for communities around the world, and on Tuesday, they organized a slipper drive for assisted-living centers and shelters around town that brought in more than 100 pairs of slippers.

"We've got so many slippers, it's unbelievable," Principal Karen Petermann said.

Kids at St. Francis Intermediary made more than 200 place mats for local nursing homes Monday and, on Wednesday, wrote letters to wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., which will be hand-delivered by another soldier.

Petermann said the week is also an opportunity to showcase the school system to the community.

"It shows what we're about and what we can do," she said. "It's a week that we can sit down and take a look at what we're about, how we're different and the good we can do. And it's all done in the spirit of Christ."

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