The Outreachers: Neighbors Come Together for a Great Cause
This year marks the tenth anniversary of a very special philanthropy project for a group of residents at The Hill at Whitemarsh: providing financial support for the third-grade class at Conshohocken Elementary School.
In 2010, Judy Campbell, a resident of The Hill, approached the principal of Conshohocken Elementary to see if they would be interested in creating some sort of sponsorship program. The answer was a resounding ‘yes.’
The school, which runs from kindergarten through third grade, has a relatively big population of low-income students, granting the school a Title I designation. Being a Title I school grants them access to federal funds to help their student body meet educational standards. Schools in which at least 40 percent of the students are from low-income families qualify for the designation. It’s for this reason that Judy was interested in getting involved, and why the principal was eager to receive the help.
It didn’t take much to convince Nancy Brewer either, a long-time resident of The Hill and Judy’s sister-in-law, since she is a former second-grade teacher who is passionate about education. Thus, the education committee was born. The women decided that a fundraiser would be the most effective way to get started, so they planned a cocktail party at Judy’s home at The Hill. In one evening, they raised enough money to cover the cost of school supplies for 40 students.
“We knew we couldn’t help the whole school, so we decided to start with the third graders,” recalls Nancy. “Each student receives a list of supplies to bring in to class at the beginning of the school year and we make sure that all of them are covered. It amounts to a total of 31 items per child, and in recent years we’ve even had money left over.”
With guidance from the principal, Denise Marks, the education committee has chosen to use the leftover money to fund a variety of schoolwide projects and field trips, such as trips to the community theater and LEGOLAND® Discovery Center, and refurbishing many of the books in their school library.
“The school has a wish list and our committee decides what to help them with each year,” says Nancy. “In addition to the school trips, we’ve also purchased new indoor games for every classroom and outfitted each class with iPads.”
When Gay Binswanger moved to The Hill in 2012, she wanted to get involved in the educational giving program and was welcomed onto the committee with open arms.
“I really think education is a gift to children. As a Title I school, Conshohocken Elementary faces a variety of challenges that my own children did not. Many of them are living at or below the poverty line, and a lot of the kids and their families speak English as a second language. The fundraising that we do has a real impact on their lives in such a positive way,” says Gay.
Gay eventually agreed to take the reigns from Judy in leading the education committee along with Nancy, who wanted to continue helping behind the scenes. Together, they have spearheaded an effort that contributed to the school’s success. Conshohocken Elementary was in the top 10 percent of schools in their category in the state by the 2016-17 school year.
“I’m so impressed with the principal and the dedication of the staff,” says Gay. “The teachers put in an unbelievable amount of work, especially with the transition to homeschooling this past year. They really go above and beyond.”
The appreciation is certainly felt by the school and the students, who have sent hundreds of thank you letters to The Hill over the past 10 years. The students also come to The Hill once a year to entertain the committee with choir performances, which is an experience both adorable and beloved. And the relationship doesn’t end there; the school has invited the committee to attend the kickoff events for Kindness Week each year, and some of the committee members are even part-time volunteers at the school.
Principal Marks recognizes that The Hill’s financial and moral support have been an unbelievable contribution to the entire district, as it provides a lot of help for students who truly need it.
“The Hill’s resident financial and volunteer support really goes above and beyond,” says Marks. “The Hill has created a strong community bond through the relationship. The financial support is simply the tip of the iceberg; it’s made a huge difference to entire households across the district, removing a burden for them so their children can succeed.”
Although the committee could not hold their annual cocktail party this year, they sent a letter to the entire neighborhood at The Hill and the results were overwhelming. The amazing support of their fellow residents allowed the women to surpass their goals significantly.
“Almost all of us are mothers and were involved in our own children’s education, so this has been a cause close to our hearts,” says Nancy.
“It makes you feel good at the end of the day and has a real impact on the lives of these children,” says Gay. “Our committee has grown to 20 people because so many of them believe in this cause.”