If you've got a kid in school — hell, if you've got a zygote on a daycare wait list — you probably know from school fundraising. Perhaps you have memories of funding drives from your own school days, back when chocolate almonds — now allergically-incorrect — were the coup de grâce of money-making initiatives. Along with, of course, the car wash, the bake sale, and picking up trash on the side of the highway (or was that just a B.C. thing?).
Anyway, if, like me, and you'd rather die than ask another neighbour to buy gift wrap, magazine subscriptions, or a side of beef, the cockles of your heart (and wallet) would have been warmed by an event I witnessed at Alexander Muir/Gladstone Ave Jr. and Sr. School last week.
Partnering with Ted Corrado, executive chef at C5 in the Royal Ontario Museum, the school put on a fundraising dinner May 19. Corrado and a team of volunteers and teachers fed 300 students and family members, who paid $5 per person for a hardy, kid-friendly meal. The proceeds will pay for bookshelves in the library to house a collection of books donated to the school through the Indigo Love of Reading program.
For all my reticence about selling stuff, the truth is that the fundraising efforts of teachers and parents, particularly the core groups of moms and dads that make up parent council and its committees, pay for really important extra-curricular activities, libraries, breakfast programs, etc. — surprisingly basic stuff that really should be there to start with.
There's a huge disparity in fundraising potential between schools in affluent neighbourhoods and those in inner-city schools such as Alexander Muir. These schools can't summon pairs of Leafs tickets and week-long vacations for silent auctions with a few phone calls from well-placed parents.
That's part of what makes a healthy, well-priced meal such a win for Alexander Muir and its community.
"They're all really grateful," said Corrado. "It's really heartwarming when they come and say thank you because they don't get this everyday."
The meal was paid for by C5 partners — the ROM and Compass Group. Cookies and squares came from the Drake Hotel, just around the corner. The Gladstone Hotel hosts a second fundraising dinner for the school each year, this one priced at $40 per person and targetted to people outside of the Alexander Muir community.
Teacher Nancy Presedo not only oversaw last Tuesday's event, but pulled off the ultimate in on-deadline baking feats, making 300 cupcakes the night before (thought of which makes even an enthusiastic cupcake mom like me weep quietly).
Presedo has been organizing these dinners for five years. Proceeds have gone toward an art program most years, and last year's paid for murals created under the tutelage of artist Allycia Uccello, who guided students in an art program that saw each child contribute.
"This is an inner-city school and we just wouldn't be able to have arts programs like this without these dinners," said Presedo. "We're just really privileged that Ted could do this."
Corrado's advice to others schools? "Reach out to a chef in your neighbourhood and make it a community thing."