Several years ago, Jo Ann McQueary got a phone call from someone she knew at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC), asking for help for a student desperate to find housing.
“I have this one young woman, a very good student, and if she doesn’t have a place to park her RV in two days, she’s going to be homeless, and she’s a single parent,” she remembered him saying. “I don’t know what to tell her.”
McQueary been on the advisory board for the Oregon college’s culinary department for many years, and her caller knew she had a large network of associates. She gave him several names, adding in emergency housing resources such as the Community Services Consortium, ended the call and crossed her fingers.
If she ever learned the outcome, McQueary said, she no longer remembers. But the experience got her and her husband, Tim, to start thinking about all the financial speed bumps a community college student might strike on the way to graduation. And they began thinking about how they could help.
Taking care of those unexpected costs
That was the beginning of the Student Completion Fund, established in 2018 and specifically set aside as scholarships for student financial needs.
“People shouldn’t have to drop out of college because they’ve got an emergency housing thing, because they’ve got a flat tire, because they can’t afford child care,” McQueary said.
Research indicates money problems are a primary barrier to educational success for community college students. Financial aid, traditionally, is meant to help with tuition and books, not dental appointments or car problems. That’s what the McQuearys wanted to change.
Tim McQueary, who passed away in 2021, was a big believer in community service, his wife said. A two-term mayor for the city of Sweet Home who also served 11 years on the city council, he was active on the Linn County Transit Committee, the Sweet Home Community Foundation, the Oregon Jamboree and Oregon Community Foundation’s leadership council, where the two of them established the Tim and Jo Ann McQuery Fund.
“He was a servant,” McQueary said. “He’s extremely generous. Volunteered for everything under the sun.”
Jo Ann has also devoted countless hours to community issues. Among other things, she has been involved with Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Sweet Home Economic Development Group and the Sweet Home Revitalization Effort and has granted wishes through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. As a Ford Community Ambassador, she was named a Ford Community Fellow in 2013, one of just eight honorees in Oregon and northern California.
Tapping their network
Tim retired from ATI Wah Chang and Jo Ann from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. Married for 53 years, the two were passionate about helping mid-valley young people in multiple ways.
Jo Ann had worked with the Albany Visitors Association, which had a restaurant association. That’s how she met members of the LBCC culinary department and came to join the advisory board. “And I’m still there,” she said.
When the college instructor called her for help with his student that day, he said it was because she “knew everyone,” Jo Ann recalled.
There may be a kernel of truth to that, but the bottom line, McQueary said, is that anyone can help — and she encourages it.
Tim and Jo Ann were the first LBCC donors to start a fund exclusively for student emergencies. It was born out of recognition that sometimes a hurdle just takes a hand to get over it. Stuff happens, she said, and people don’t get to choose the most opportune time. That’s why donations are critical.
“I do think it’s really important,” McQueary said. “You can get a scholarship. You can get loans. But you can’t always get a set of tires.”