Thanks to a $25,000 contribution from the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Philadelphia, three classrooms at St. Malachy Elementary School in North Philadelphia have interactive whiteboards.
The school used part of a $5,000 gift from Lockheed Martin Corp. to buy a dozen microscopes.
Parishioners from Queen of Peace in Ardsley supplied the school's new basketball uniforms. And a $25,000 grant from the Anna-Maria Moggio Foundation in Center City is underwriting a new music program.
While many inner-city Catholic parish schools are on the brink of financial disaster, St. Malachy is strong, vibrant and fiscally stable.
A local business group, which wants to help other Catholic schools raise the money they need, is looking to St. Malachy as a model.
Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS), mounting an aggressive campaign to create a $50 million foundation to provide long-term support for inner-city parish schools, is talking about starting with St. Malachy and two other parish schools.
St. Malachy's success can be traced to the tireless fund-raising efforts of the Rev. John P. McNamee, the pastor.
For 25 years, McNamee has been tapping foundations and reaching out to a network of benefactors to keep his parish's school of 210 students "alive and well and stable" on 11th Street near Master Street.
Helped by volunteers and now a board of directors and a separate 60-member advisory board, St. Malachy fund-raises about $800,000 of the annual $1.1 million budget for a school where 80 percent of the students come from low-income families.
"It's like a barn-raising every year," said Monica Steigerwald, a part-time fund-raising consultant.
The money provides offerings such as art, music and technology, and makes up the difference between the school's $1,700 tuition and the actual cost of educating a child, $5,238 a year.
"It is always a stretch, but so far we have been able to do it," said McNamee, a poet and author of Diary of a City Priest, which in 2001 was made into a movie starring David Morse.
The other inner-city parish schools included in the BLOCS discussions because they have raised fund-raising to an art form are St. Martin de Porres at 24th Street and Lehigh Avenue, and St. Francis de Sales at 47th Street and Springfield Avenue.
"Success breeds success," said the Rev. Zachary Navit, pastor at St. Francis, in University City. "BLOCS wants to look at schools that are working and support them and perhaps make them a model for other schools."
With 510 students on its rolls, St. Francis has a waiting list. For 17 years, the school has had a development team led by sisters from the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious order. Between the team and a newer advisory board, the school last year fund-raised $534,000 of its $1.6 million budget.
We are not 'fund-raisers,' " said Sister Constance Marie Touey, the school's co-principal, who helped launch the school's development program. "We are religious educators. The only reason we do this . . . is we just know we can do wonderful things for the children."
St. Martin de Porres School in North Philadelphia, which educates 385 students, raises more than $450,000 every year.
In addition to making up the difference between the $1,700 tuition and the $4,000 cost of educating each child, the Rev. Edward Hallinan said, the money goes toward physical education, art, music and computers, and other programs that enhance students' educational experience.
Since arriving in 1997, Hallinan has become adept at rounding up help for his school. He has a list of 2,000 supporters he contacts three times a year, and St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne, the sister parish, provides year-round help.
But Hallinan said the need to raise money is constant.
"What BLOCS is proposing is, I think, key to the vitality of every school that is threatened financially - to have finance people come in and say to the principal, 'You tell us your needs. . . . Let us assist you.'"
He said that would relieve the burden of fund-raising and allow him to spend more time on pastoral work.
At St. Malachy, where 80 percent of students come from low-income families and many parents and teachers are graduates of the school, everyone knows how hard McNamee has worked to keep the school open.
"Father McNamee is great," said Latanya Williams, who has three children at St. Malachy and whose son, Khavaughn, 14, is a 2007 graduate who now attends Cardinal Dougherty High School. "He's a wonderful pastor and leader. He works hard on the religious aspect of things and the financial aspect of things. . . . He knows the children individually. He's remarkable."
McNamee, 74, plans to retire next year. The parish and its legion of supporters began developing long-range financial plans three years ago to ensure that the school he had nurtured since 1982 would survive without him.
The priest welcomed the overtures by BLOCS to preserve St. Malachy and other inner-city parish schools.
"We think it is one of the most critical works the church does," McNamee said. "And I think our modest success has given BLOCS some incentive that 'yes, it's possible to keep schools open.' "