Volunteers Key to Success of REF Phone-a-Thon

refThe last week of February, the Rockford High School Media Center housed 125 dedicated volunteers over a three-day period. These volunteers called every parent in the Rockford School District to ask for a donation to the Rockford Education Foundation. Their efforts resulted in over $22,500 in pledges to the foundation, which, in turn, gives over $60,000 per year to the community in the form of grants for educational purposes.

“I think all of us at REF were concerned about meeting our goals this year, in light of the economy,”said Phone-a-Thon co-chair Gail Vanderlaan, “It was very gratifying to again receive so much financial support from the Rockford Community.”

With fifteen Phone-a-Thons behind them, REF trustees have it down to a science.

Approximately 25 parent, grandparent, RPS staff, or community volunteers come in for a two-hour shift. Vanderlaan trains the callers and puts about 18-20 of them to work on a bank of phones. Sue Arends, REF trustee, who was instrumental in developing the annual Phone-a-Thon in 1994, takes the rest of the volunteers, who stuff envelopes and prepare the mailing. “It’s quite a production,” says REF administrator Sue Arend. “Our pledges are down from last year, but that’s to be expected in times like these. We are just so grateful to those who pledged and to those who volunteered their time. It will be a big help as we prepare to face the budget cuts ahead!”

ref2Meadow Ridge Elementary School parent Beth O’Donnell not only organized 20 volunteers from her school, but she also worked two shifts herself. When asked if she enjoys working the Phone-a-Thon, Beth said, “I do enjoy doing what I can to help out REF and help out our schools. Although it was very humbling this year, as we heard many say they weren’t able to give due to financial hardship or loss of jobs, it was awesome and also humbling to have those who could give this year, do. Everyone did what they could, whether it was $10 or $100 and it was great to be a part of that!”

REF trustee Theresa Webb co-chairs the event with Vanderlaan. “Now, more than ever, the need for REF grants are crucial. Thank you to our Rockford parents, for coming through once again, and making it evident that our children and their education are a priority!”

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