Jarrett Johnson was not expecting to win a Strimbu Memorial Fund scholarship.

“A lot of kids were applying,” he said May 1, shortly after being handed his award at the Strimbu Memorial Fund BBQ at Yankee Lake Ballroom.

But the Brookfield High School senior somehow stood out. He had to submit an essay on his community service work, and he had quite a bit to talk about because of his involvement at school through the Interact Club, Students Against Destructive Decisions and Future Teachers of America.

“I just like helping out, especially with kids,” said Jarrett who has climbed into hot costumes to be McGruff the Crime Dog and Thumper, a friend of the Easter Bunny.

The fund handed out 13 $2,000 scholarships, with Jarrett, who plans to study finance at Pitt, scoring one of them. A $10,000 scholarship went to Robert Coller of Lakeview.

Jarrett Johnson of Brookfield High School and Olivia Baker of Badger High School received Strimbu Memorial Fund scholarships at the annual Strimbu BBQ on May 1.
Jarrett Johnson of Brookfield High School and Olivia Baker of Badger High School received Strimbu Memorial Fund scholarships at the annual Strimbu BBQ on May 1.

“I hope to exemplify what the Strimbu Memorial Fund is,” Robert said.

For 30 years, the fund has set a standard of giving people a hand up, not a hand out, by awarding scholarships and supporting the organizations that try to fill the gaps in community needs, from afterschool programs to meals for the elderly.

“It goes fast,” said fund President Jim Grasso, who has been on the board for 20 years.

The fund has flourished because the community has wanted it to, he said. The predictable overflow turnout at the barbecue, where money is raised through ticket sales and live and Chinese auctions, means the fund will have cash for its next round of grants.

“As long as we continue to push hard, and we have a good turnout at the barbecue, we’ll keep doing it,” he said.

Yet, there is an additional factor that is needed to keep the fund pushing forward: the people to organize the barbecue, study the grant applications and sign the checks.

Bill Strimbu, the son of Nick Strimbu Jr., in whose memory the fund was established, said the board members have worked hard to attract younger blood into their ranks.

“As people retire and resign from the board, we’ve been wanting to bring in younger people,” he said.

It is difficult finding young people able and willing to make the commitment to the fund, Strimbu said, and the board members don’t sugarcoat the expectations.

“We tell them they’re gonna hate this for a while,” he said, referring to the amount of work to be done.

Still, the fund has attracted a good group of younger folks that includes Strimbu’s sons, Spencer and Bill Jr.; his niece, Kara Kasula;, and Dustin Ghizzoni of Waterdrop Media.

“Everybody works toward a common goal,” Grasso said.

That work is worth it when people show up at the barbecue and support the fund’s mission, Strimbu said, calling the secret to the fund’s success “the generosity of the Shenango Valley.”

Also receiving Strimbu scholarships May 1 were:

Olivia Baker, Badger High School.

Cinnamon Price, Farrell High School.

Stephen Jaussen, Greenville High School.

Kyle McDonough, Hickory High School.

Elizabeth Krinos, Hubbard High School.

Gannon Fridley, John W. Kennedy High School, Warren.

Leah Lombardi, Kennedy Catholic High School, Hermitage.

Rachel Thomas, Mathews High School.

Francesca Giardina, Reynolds High School.

Denise Williams, Sharon High School.

Sarah Parry, Sharpsville High School.

Kyla Bruner, West Middlesex High School.