I spent much of the weekend helping out at my kids’ school. It was the second annual “Arts and Crafts Spectacular”, a big name for a small (but sweet) event conceived to raise money for my daughters’ small public charter school. We did pretty well this year, though numbers were a little down from the year before. Maybe a little bit of a sophomore slump, but more likely unusually frigid temperatures kept a lot of potential shoppers at home.
The fair was a lot of work to put together, and I was only one of the smaller players hour- and effort-wise in the overall organization of the event. It never fails to amaze me how many volunteer hours parents have to put in to keep any ‘extras’ flowing at the average public school! Events have to be conceived, organized, promoted and carried out over weeks and months. Not to mention the many ongoing fundraisers manned by volunteers that take place on a daily and weekly basis throughout the year.
But it really is worth it for a number of reasons, some obvious, some less so.
If parents at most schools don’t put a little extra effort into fundraising or filling gaps with volunteer hours, there is no one to pick up that slack. My kids’ school is in a busy urban environment, housed in a repurposed building that works well enough, but wasn’t designed to be the pre-K through 12th grade learning environment it is. There is no playground for example, and there really isn’t one on the horizon, though the grounds were reworked to feel warmer and more school-like by, you guessed it, a number of parent and teacher volunteers over the summer.
Some of those same parents run a berry sale fundraiser to fund the re-opening (closed due to budget cuts a couple of years ago) of our rooftop garden program. The list goes on and on about the needs of our school, and the parent (and teacher) volunteers coming in to do their best to provide for those needs.
Those are the obvious benefits. But I’ve enjoyed learning about the other benefits too. My girls (now 10 and 8) were in preschool and kindergarten when we moved to our current city from another state. Some of the friendships I hold most dear are with people I met either directly through volunteer duties, or who I met through school, and our bonds were further cemented through the sometimes frantic planning and carrying out of volunteer-run events.
These friends are the people who brought my kids into the fold of their busy lives when I had to take emergency trips to see my mom in the hospital in another state. These are the people who, after a long day at work, brought me soup and saltines when I had a bad flu. These are the people who make my kids Halloween costumes every year (because this is not my strong point) and water my plants when I’m away.
See, the funny thing about joining forces with people willing to donate their time to a good cause is that in getting to know those people, you create a nourishing, healthy environment for yourself. It’s not just about the kids’ school and budget deficits and filling in gaps. It’s about being part of a community. And I’m not even getting into what a good example it is for the kids. My kids spent the entire day yesterday (Sunday) at their school helping with the event. They had a blast playing with the other kids and feeling like they were doing something important.
(And you thought it was just an arts and crafts fair!)