Sleeper Trust a tremendous boon

Each year about this time Susan Raines, director of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, makes a request to the trustees of the Sleeper Family Trust for program funding for the upcoming year. The requests are most always granted.
The Sleeper Trust was founded by Alan Sleeper, son of the late A. R. Sleeper, founder of Sleeper Furniture, the Sleeper Funeral Home and a pillar of First Presbyterian Church of Iola. The body of the trust was augmented substantially at the death of Virginia Sleeper Creitz, who was first married to Alan’s brother John, who died far too early in a tragic accident.
The Sleepers were givers who put the welfare of the Iola community high on their list of priorities. This dedication is continued through the trust that Alan founded and that he and his daughter, Barbara, still help direct.
This year Ms. Raines asked for $126,475 to fund, in whole or in part, 27 events or projects. About $60,000 of that total — nearly half — will fund cultural projects for the students of the community, making their lives fuller, richer, more varied.
It is impossible to overstate how great a contribution that the Sleeper Family Trust makes to the wide-reaching community, which drinks from the Bowlus Fine Arts Center cultural fountain every year.
Ms. Raines, however, did a good job of putting the community’s thanks into words in a letter she wrote to Alan Sleeper, his daughter, Barbara Hulsizer, and the other trustees as a preface to this year’s proposal for funds. She wrote:
“Barbara & Gentlemen:
“The Sleeper Family Trust programming for 2008-09 was very successful. Jungle Jack Hanna will long be remembered by approximately 2,000 children and adults who enjoyed the extraordinary stories he shared and animals they were privileged to see and hear about when he stepped onto the Bowlus stage last January.
“Mr. Hanna was a wonderful guest, inquisitive about the Bowlus Center and how it came to exist, questioning how a venue in a community our size was able to bring him to Iola to perform. When I shared the story of the Sleeper Family Trust, he, like so many before him, was astounded and complimentary of the gift the trust bestows on our community and of the example it gave to others to establish their own trusts to fund programming and events in this fine arts center in a rural community.
“At the end of a very long day of three performances, handing out an autographed picture to every teacher that attended the daytime school shows for their classroom, and then signing posters, photos and books following his evening performance, Mr. Hanna still took a moment before leaving the Bowlus to take one final look around the auditorium from the audience’s perspective and said to me, ‘Amazing. This community is very blessed.’
“I share this story with you because I want you know the impact the Sleeper Trust has not only on our community, but on those that come here to perform. Later in March, when the Montana Repertory Theatre Company performed ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to over 500 students and adults, the cast responded during a Q & A following the performance and said the Bowlus audience was the best (and largest) audience they had ever had while touring this show.
“I could go on and on about the successes of the many programs the Sleeper Family Trust funds, the impact they have on children, on literacy, reading, and the arts, but I will say no more ex-cept ‘Thank You’ to Alan for having the vision to begin the trust. ...”