It's a little-known secret that Kent's annual Safety School for incoming kindergarten students happens magically each summer thanks to sprite little elves.
I'm joking, of course.
The Kent Junior Mothers sponsor the annual event, which averages 100 students who come to learn about traffic safety, fire safety, gun safety, bus safety, "stranger danger" and a whole host of other good-to-know topics.
Safety School is a monumental effort put on by a group with a membership that's been steadily dwindling over the past few decades.
Just how monumental? Stephanie Alexander, president of the all-volunteer Kent Junior Mothers, shared a few eye-opening stats:
- For 2007-2008, it cost $2,000 to run Safety School. Registration raised $2,400 that year.
- About 100 people are needed to run Safety School, including about 25 members of KJM, 60 volunteer teenagers and 15 different speakers.
- It costs close to $1,000 to provide T-shirts for all students and organizers.
- More than $200 is spent to provide a kitchen with snacks and beverages for the five-day event.
- More than 2,200 Kent children have graduated from Safety School since it started 30 years ago.
Why am I telling you this? To drive home the point that it takes a lot of effort and money to pull off Safety School each year.
"The only way we can afford to do that is through our only fundraiser, which is a reverse raffle," Alexander said.
This year, Kent Junior Mothers moved their reverse raffle to The Rusty Nail on Saturday, April 21. Tickets are $100 per couple and are on sale now. Contact Alexander at 330-346-0460 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The raffle includes a buffet dinner, drinks, music, bingo, a lottery-ticket tree, a main board and side board raffles — along with a host of door prizes that range from Indians tickets to big-box store gift cards.
The raffle is the Kent Junior Mothers sole fundraiser, but Safety School isn't their only volunteer effort. The group donates Easter baskets to Kent Social Services each year, they give away cookies and doughnuts at the annual Festival of Lights, they help keep Plum Creek Park clean — the group helped establish the playground when the park was created — and they've donated excess proceeds from the raffle in years past to area organizations.
And the group does these things today with just about two dozen members. At one point, 67 women belonged to Kent Junior Mothers.
"It's a big endeavor" particularly for a shrinking membership, Alexander said of Safety School.
How big is it? Safety School runs for three hours a day for five days in July. Kent Junior Mothers gives small gifts to the visitors such as firefighters and police officers who speak to the 100 or so students. When it's all over, the 60-plus teens who volunteered to help run Safety School are treated to a pizza and bowling party by the group.
Name tags are printed. Snacks and drinks are handed out each day. A cake and punch party marks graduation. You're starting to get the picture of the subtle complexities involved.
So, as Alexander said, spending $100 for a fun night out with your spouse or significant other at this year's raffle is money well spent to keep a Kent institution running for another 30 years or more.