Before the first bell rings signaling the start of the school day, students at the middle school gather in small circles on the playground. They’re greeted each morning by Principal Karen Bukowski, and for the past month, Bukowski has been joined twice a week by the president of the school’s Booster Club as he sells breakfast items. It’s a new effort that started with a dual purpose: Help the boosters raise more money and give those kids who need it something to eat.
“Don’t be bashful,” club president Patrick Doolin says as kids come by and eye the spread. “Who’s hungry?”
Jarrell Townes, a fifth-grader at the adjacent Field-Stevenson school, said he remembers to bring a little money every week. He always buys a cereal bar and a muffin.
“Every Friday,” Townes said.
The middle school’s booster club has roughly 100 parents on its roster, said Doolin, but like many volunteer organizations there’s a smaller core that carries much of the load. Annually, the group donates between $7,000 and $8,000 to various projects at the school. Everything from entry fees for the robotics club competitions, gifts for teachers and pizza parties for students are covered in part by the boosters. Volunteers also help chaperone dances and other events, said Doolin.
Some of the programs supported by the club can be expensive, and it became obvious that more fundraising would be needed.
“It was pretty apparent that the requests for money were going to far outweigh our finances at the time,” Doolin said.
Bukowski has long wanted a breakfast program at the school, and after discussing ways to raise more money, she recommended they offer an inexpensive breakfast to kids. Prices range from 25 cents to $1, and kids can buy muffins, a sports drink, cereal bars, raisins, Pop Tarts and a few other items on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
“So many kids don’t have anything,” Bukowski said of breakfast options.
There is no fruit or yogurt, nor is there any milk. The club doesn’t have any way to refrigerate food to keep it from spoiling. What isn’t sold gets packed into a plastic storage bin.
Doolin, a former member of the village council, said he would like to expand the offerings and have the food available Monday through Friday. Kids could be put in charge of manning the table and keep a portion of the proceeds for whichever club or activity they’re involved in. The goal this year was simply to get it started and establish a presence, which he seems to have done.
On the first day he set up his table, Doolin said he had $8 in sales. The next time around it was $16, then $21 and $25.
“I’ll never forget. One of the first days one of the kids asked if I had change for $10,” Doolin said. “I think I was 16 years old before I saw a $10 bill.”
The fledgling fundraiser has also given Doolin another opportunity to interact with students and teachers at the school, and has reaffirmed his belief that there’s nothing to the rumors of anarchy in the hallways. His daughter is a seventh-grader at the middle school and Doolin has two more at Garfield Elementary.
“You have to be an involved parent,” Doolin said. “If you’re an involved parent you’ll see what’s going on and it will set your mind at ease. There’s no harm in worrying, but don’t allow the rumor mill to dictate where you’re going to send your kids to school.”