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Issue 681

02/27/2014 at 5:04pm

PTOIt Takes a Village - Volunteer Shortage
Cancels PTO Golf Tourney

It is very likely that the quality of your elementary school experience was greatly enhanced due to the fundraising efforts of a group of parent and teacher volunteers who were part of the local chapter of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA - pta.org) or, as is the case at the Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO - pto.org).

Almost every one of our benevolent beach organizations has its centerpiece fundraising event - The Lions have their Shrimp Festival, the Kiwanians have their thrift store, the Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve have their wine dinner under the stars at Mango Street Inn, the FMB Community Foundation has its fashion show, and the Beach School PTO, for the past twelve years, has had its PTO Golf Scramble.

For a dozen years, the tirelessly enthusiastic folks who have organized and produced this and other events have routinely raised more and more money for our school, last year dispersing over $20,000 in donated funds for things like field trips for all grades, holiday and end-of-school-year events, support for the annual school play, much-needed computers, prizes for academic challenges, office and school room supplies, books, and special presentations for the students.

Since its inception in 2001, this event has brought parents, teachers and school supporters together for many months of planning, schlepping, and appealing for prizes, and then spending a very fun day on the Fort Myers Beach Golf Course, all for the sake of the kids. And in 2006, when Beach School mom Tracey Gore assumed the position of PTO president, the event grew to epic proportions.

"I was President for 4 or 5 years," Tracey said in an email on Tuesday this week. "I took over for Evie Barnes, when her kids left the Beach School." She notes she held all the offices in the organization at first. "I was President, VP, Treasurer AND Secretary for a while until the teachers stepped in to help me."

That first year she took the reins, Tracey says she "did the golf tourney with the help of teachers, a few moms, and...my family and some friends who had no kids at the Beach School." She specifically mentions Lynda and Louis Monaco, Phil and Nadine Freeman, Mike Dagnese (MD Electric), Ken Selvidio, and her mom Joanne Semmer and other family members as the key contributors to the event's success. "There are people who haven't had kids at (the) Beach School in years - their kids are grown." And yet, year after year, they gave their all to ensure the money was raised.

But this year, when PTO parent and golf event coordinator Ginger Weber put out the clarion call to the school parents for this year's tourney, the response was disappointing, though perhaps not necessarily surprising, given the current realities of raising a family in today's world. Most parents are working, some two or even three jobs each, just to make ends meet, and they simply do not feel they have the time or resources to give more.

Over a quick lunch in her classroom, Cathy Trent, Beach School teacher and President of the PTO since Tracey stepped down in 2011, weighed in on the apparent ebb of parent/grandparent participation in this year's Scramble. "It could be our demographics," she says with a nod. "We have a good number of kids here each year who just come for a portion of the school year. Their parents are snowbirds." Not only that, but many of our older and retired snowbirds have never had any kids attend the Beach School, and are quite involved in their grandchildren's lives 'up North', and do not interact with the children on the island.

But Weber points out that there are, in fact, many folks on the island with no personal ties to the school, who give their time and participate in many different ways throughout the year, along with some very dedicated Beach School parents, who always step up to the plate. This does not explain the lack of response from the parents this year.

"We have amazing parents at the Beach School. But they are so busy working, doing homework with their kids, and driving them here and there. Finding time to volunteer isn't easy. And I think some of the new parents are daunted by the golfing part of it. Some of them have never experienced the event and don't know how much fun it is, and that they don't have to know anything about golf to participate. I am not a golfer, and I didn't know anything about it my first year."

Nonetheless, with the tepid response to her appeal for help with the event, Ginger could not take it on this year, what with a family of her own to care for as well as being co-owner of a booming water sports business. "This would have been the 13th annual Scramble. If we were going to skip a year, this is a good year to skip," she says with a little laugh. "I'm sure there will be a lot of golfers who will be disappointed that we're not having it this year, but we want to try something new, to maybe get some new people interested in volunteering."

To that end, Ginger is inviting anyone interested in volunteering with the PTO to a brainstorming session at Truly Scrumptious in Santini Plaza on Wednesday, March 5th at 4 PM (after school, of course). "We will have a big event, probably early in May, and we want to put our heads together and come up with something really fun." As Cathy Trent points out, "Even if you can't volunteer your time, if you have fundraising experience, we would love to pick your brain for ideas." If you cannot make it to the meeting on Wednesday, but you want to help in some way with this or any other Beach School PTO projects and events, you can contact Ginger at 239-707-8328 or email her at gweber1813@aol.com.

If you have anything you can share - time, expertise, ideas, prizes - please do. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, and we have a few hundred of them here.


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