A warm-loaded array of breakfast foods, a new set of soccer and basketball goals and balls, special moments for parents and their children — these are all things provided by the California Elementary School PTO.
A long-standing group with a mission to support the teachers and students in the pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade building, the PTO has made some changes and additions to its events this school year.
The greatest adjustment has been to the organizational structure, said Vice President Jenny Cain.
In the past, the PTO officers have been done the bulk of the planning and carrying out of the various projects and events.
This year, volunteer committees orchestrated various events. Cain hopes to see that dispersal of responsibility grow next year.
With today's busy lives and less mothers at home, the PTO organization understands people have little volunteer time.
However, the committee arrangement asks for a once-a-year commitment from volunteers to work on a single event or project of their interest.
"The committees will be huge," Cain said.
She hopes that volunteers will stick with the same event committee for several years.
"It's hard when you have turnover every year," Cain said. "Then, they'll know what to do in the future."
For the first time in October, a new PTO committee hosted the Tough Pumpkin Run. The lead volunteer was someone interested in running events.
As a result, the event had exceptional community support and was well received by the participants, said Stacy Kusgen, co-president. "This is an example of what we'd like to see more of in the future," she said.
This year, the PTO also began trying to coordinate weekly volunteers for each classroom. As a former teacher, Cain said she knew the benefit of having someone else do the time-draining work of copying, cutting and laminating.
And the PTO volunteers do other things throughout the year to boost morale, such as MAP testing chalk inspirations, festive entryways for family photo-ops and coordinating donations of hygiene supplies for families in need.
The PTO helps kick off the new school year with the Back-To-School Bash, held simultaneously with the open house two nights before the first day of school. By providing snacks, games and a bounce house, the PTO hopes it brings excitement to the beginning of a new school year and also helps increase the turnout numbers.
Through May, the PTO tries to host at least one event in addition to the monthly planning meetings. Parents, grandparents or community volunteers are welcome to be involved.
In September, the organization hosted its second golf tournament, which helps raise funds so the organization can provide its various purchases and support throughout the year. The PTO has seen generous support from the community for this event and others.
In contrast, the movie nights, held three times this year, are free to students and their families. The event actually costs the organization money, as licensing to show recent releases is costly, said Secretary Kim Hays.
Extremely popular, the movie nights fill the gym with pajama-clad children with their parents on blankets. What people might not realize is the time and effort that happens behind-the-scenes to make such a "simple" event happen.
Volunteers like Kusgen spend hours collecting concessions items, setting up and organizing the area.
"We learn from year to year what works and what doesn't," Kusgen said.
Different grades benefit each movie night from the optional raffles and concessions. Teacher Angela Butts said she has been able to purchase poster boards, tri-folds, seating for my library, and supplies for special activities such as experiments.
"PTO has been a great organization to provide fun, affordable activities for our school," Butts said.
In December, the PTO took up the school's annual food drive and served a breakfast to the teachers. It also drew from its funds to provide portable basketball goals, soccer goals, soccer balls and horseshoe sets for the playground.
This year, the PTO also replaced two traditional water fountains with ones that include a bottle refill station. They hope to replace the remaining traditional fountains in the future.
"Running PTO is not cheap," Kusgen said.
So, they balance fundraising with supportive activities.
"We try to provide something for everyone," Cain said.