Chris Maney isn’t surprised that her daughter Regan Sochanek ended up being a PTA vice-president. “She went to school here,” Maney said as she gazed around the Matthew Thornton School cafeteria. “Both my daughters went here,” Maney said. “I was a room mother.” With two grandsons now at MTS, she attends and helps with “every function I can,” Maney said.
It doesn’t skip a generation. Mothers, grandmothers and at least one dad gathered in the Matthew Thornton cafeteria this past Friday for the school’s annual Volunteer Breakfast. The event capped a week honoring those who give their time to children and education.
As members of the Tigers’ Student Council dished out fruit, quiche, egg casserole and a dazzling array of pastries, Sochanek said she volunteers because she likes to be part of her children’s school experience. One of her favorite activities is the Ski Club, though, she said, “I like anything around the kids.”
A selection of first-graders read poetry in honor of volunteers. As they walked out, mother Lindsay Vago gave her son Everett a high-five. Vago said she works with the school’s Destination Imagination team and in the classroom. She has two other sons, Evan, a third-grader, and Ethan, a fourth-grader who was serving along with the Student Council.
“I like to watch the kids grow and change,” Vago said.
It all comes together for Vago when she hears back from a parent, usually in an e-mail. “When they tell me their child is looking forward to the next Destination Imagination meeting, that makes me feel like it’s all worth it,” Vago said.
Second-graders presented the volunteers with construction-paper flowers. The third grade’s contribution was placemats, and the fourth-graders gave out handmade cards. The fifth grade created a giant card displayed on the wall, with signatures and messages from each student.
Principal Sharon Putney said about 50 people were in attendance. The food was provided by staff members, and the Student Council, under the guidance of teachers, Ann Smith and Katie Miller, were responsible for setup, serving and clean-up.
How important are volunteers? Putney said, “They are the heart and soul of a school.”
What these particular volunteers accomplish is “amazing to me, Some do more than others, but everybody does what they can.”
The volunteers at breakfast included Richard Gray, who has two children at MTS. Gray said he likes to be involved because “it gets me closer to the kids, and I can help out the school.” Gray is an event guy, lending his time and talents to the annual Book Fair and the Winter Wonderland in December.
As her fellow parents visited and picked at the last of their meal, PTA president Aaron Duffy said she’s been a volunteer since her daughter, now a third-grader, came to school. “I think it’s important for kids to have a community of parents around them,” Duffy said.
The PTA, the chief avenue for volunteering, provides extra programs that the school cannot but that are important for education, according to Duffy.
Her favorite event to work on is, hands-down, the Winter Wonderland holiday celebration, she said.
If she were trying to recruit another parent, say the mom of a first-grader, Duffy said she’d tell them, “It’s beneficial to be part of the same community as your children. You will have school in common with your child.”
And if that parent works outside the home, or has other time complications, Duffy said the PTA will still find a place for them. “We have a lot of events on the weekend,” she said, “and we always need baked goods for things like the Teacher Appreciation week.”