Community Involvement Gets Amazing Results at Belville Elementary
Difficult times can be an opportunity to find new ways to grow, to come up with fresh ideas and ingenious ways to make things work.
When Leland’s Belville Elementary School, just like other schools across the state, faced budget cuts this school year, its Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) decided to meet its financial matters head on.
The board members rallied, and then sought parent, staff and community aid to come up with a way to raise money for their school.
“The teachers rely on the PTO for money to help with various things,” says Danielle Metty, PTO vice president. Metty has one child attending Belville and will have a kindergartner starting next year. In her first year as PTO vice president, Metty signed on because she wanted to give back to the school and the community.
“Being a stay-at-home mom, for the time being,” says Metty, “I wanted to help while I was able to.”
The PTO provides money for a program called Girls on the Run, which builds self-esteem and motivation in young girls through running and exercise. The PTO also raises money to improve the school grounds and assists in purchasing recorders for the music department, equipment for the media center and materials for the classrooms.
Belville Elementary had not produced a big fund-raising event in several years, so a festival seemed like a perfect way to involve not only parents, students and staff but also the public.
“This year, we wanted to come up with something new to generate funds for the school’s overwhelming needs,” says Metty, who helped lead the fund-raiser. “We thought we needed to create something with a ‘wow’ factor.”
Hence, the fall festival, “Welcome to Mazeville,” was born.
The PTO brought in 500 bales of hay and designed an old-fashioned hay maze on the school grounds. Volunteers — board members, parents and other helpers — pulled together to set up for this special two-day event in October.
For admission of $10, attendees were encouraged to “get lost in Mazeville.” They could enjoy the festival all day and receive complimentary cotton candy, hot dogs, soda and popcorn from the concession stand. Bringing a donation of canned goods for the local food bank gave attendees one dollar off the admission price.
Sunny, pleasant weather and an assortment of fun activities greeted the festival goers. The hay maze stood front and center, decorated with students’ fall artwork along its perimeter. A petting zoo featured two loveable donkeys and a hat-wearing goat named Ivy. Various booths hosted entertaining carnival-style games with fun prizes. An old-fashioned cake walk offered a chance to win yummy baked goods, and baskets filled with themed goodies were raffled.
One of the most popular booths was the “pie-in-the-face” game in which teachers and even Principal Tracy Condon were in the line of fire for eager students throwing whipped cream.
A deejay delivered an air of joviality that instilled, in some, the desire to suddenly break out in dance and song. The little ones (and some big ones, too) got a chance to slide down the 18-foot blow-up slide. And what is a festival without food? The concession stand was busy cooking up all of the good-time favorites.
“A great time was had by all,” says Metty. “The planning of the event ran very smoothly. So it’s a great possibility this event will continue in the future.”
Metty is grateful and touched by all of the support the PTO received for its fund-raiser.
“We couldn’t have done the event without the help from the parents, staff and members of the community,” Metty says. “The festival turned out to be a success with roughly 600 people in attendance over the course of the two days.”
Many Leland businesses, as well as some Wilmington ones, offered their support. Brunswick Farm Bureau donated $500, Harris Teeter in Waterford donated 500 sodas and bottled waters for the event, and the Scotchman-VPS Store on N.C. Highway 133 provided 400 hot dogs and buns. More than 20 other local businesses sponsored the event in some way.
“Even in tough times, everyone is still generous and giving to our schools and the community,” says Metty.
The PTO proved that thinking positively and working together as a community gets successful results, even in times of economic difficulty. Everyone involved embraced Belville’s mission and gave the students a leading example of how to be responsible citizens and rise up to a challenge.