BROOKSVILLE — The students at Challenger K-8 School call Beth Narverud the pizza lady.
Narverud and her husband, Marty, own two Domino's Pizza locations in the area and have three children at the science and math magnet school in Spring Hill. They give away free pizzas to honor roll students there and at schools throughout the district.
Narverud is now on her way to earning a new title among county residents: the foundation lady.
The 48-year-old Weeki Wachee resident was recently tapped to fill the Hernando County Education Foundation's new, full-time executive director post.
The foundation's 15-member board of directors didn't have to look far. Narverud had been involved with the organization for three years and joined the board in January 2010. At one point, she was on six committees.
"I was very happy to get the job because I was really happy about what we'd been doing, and I just felt we could do so much more given direction," Narverud said. "I could just see the potential impact we could have."
Formed in 1988, the nonprofit group's mission is to secure state and federal grant funding and donations of dollars, supplies and time to benefit local schools. For years, a part-time administrator helped lead the charge.
The board last summer decided it was time to start searching for a full-time, salaried executive director. There is little money to put toward a salary, though, so the successful candidate had to be willing to work for about $30,000 a year.
Narverud was a standout among the three applicants, said foundation president Gus Guadagnino. She was already involved with the foundation, she has children in the school system, she knows how to run a business, and she has plenty of contacts in the business community.
Just as important, Guadagnino said, is her passion.
"When you talk from the heart, it's a lot easier to close on something," he said.
Born in New York and raised on the Jersey Shore, Narverud is the second oldest of four children. Her mother tended to operating room patients as a registered nurse; her father owned a deli catering business and worked as a supermarket manager.
She started coursework at Rutgers State College, then left to get into the restaurant business. In 1987, Narverud moved with her father to Spring Hill and opened Kirshy's New York Deli and Catering, a popular neighborhood hangout.
A few years later, she met Marty, who owned three Domino's locations at the time. They married in 1994 and have lived in Woodland Waters since 1998.
They now own Domino's stores in Spring Hill and Hudson. As vice president of Narverud Restaurant Systems, Narverud helps oversee virtually every aspect of the business.
Narverud lands in the foundation's director post at a critical time. The organization is enjoying a renaissance of sorts after atrophying during the time Wayne Alexander was superintendent. The recession has also been a challenge.
Still, the foundation distributed funds and services totaling more than $170,000 last school year and had an impact on more than 15,000 students through classroom grants for efforts such as Springstead High's human-powered submarine project. That impact is expected to be even greater this year, Narverud said.
She likes to emphasize what she calls the circular relationship between quality schools and community prosperity.
"Hernando County's a hidden gem of Tampa Bay," she said. "We can boost our economy by improving our education system."
While building partnerships with local businesses will continue to be a primary focus, the board recently voted to tweak its mission statement to reflect efforts to reel in support from throughout the state, and even the country.
"You could get lost in a sea of funding," Narverud said. "Everyone wants to give back, but it's the process of getting it from them."
Another goal is to encourage teachers to speak up about their innovative ideas, she said. The foundation recently held a grant writing workshop for teachers and plans more.
"Paint me a picture of what you'd like, tell us why you want to do it, and if that makes sense, we're going to help you find funding," she said. "It's as simple as that."
A new membership campaign solicits contribution levels ranging from $10 to the $5,000 "platinum partner" level.
Even small raindrops make a big puddle, Narverud said, but lending time and experience is valuable, too.
"Whether it's coming into a classroom and reading a book, or helping us hand out fliers at an event to promote the mission of the foundation," she said. "It's even coming into a classroom and speaking about what you do in life, teaching children what the real world is going to be, and showing them different avenues and different possibilities that are available to them."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.