By Amanda Rhodes
It may have been cold and raining outside, but inside the First Congregational Church on College Ave, adults and children were enjoying the 16th Annual Pancake fundraiser for the Duhamel Education Initiative last Saturday.
The Duhamel Education Initiative (DEI) was founded in 1996 by a group of active community members to honor the passing of their friend, Paul Duhamel, a Somerville School Committee Member who was especially committed to keeping kids in school. Since its founding, the all-volunteer non-profit organization has awarded over $50,000 to the Somerville Public Schools. The organization has three annual events: the Pancake Breakfast, the Walk to Support Somerville Public Schools, and the Fall Fundraising Dinner.
This year’s Pancake Breakfast was crowded, with every table full of hungry participants. The chefs were Somerville School Committee Members and included the Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi and Assistant Superintendent Vince McKay. The menu included pancakes, baked goods, fruit, coffee and juices. There were also raffle prizes, which included gift baskets and gift certificates from local businesses.
The DEI works with Somerville Public Schools and accepts Requests for Proposals from teachers and school personnel. The group supports innovative ideas which “motivate a child in his or her education,” said DEI President, Larry Siraco. “Our hope is that that motivation will continue throughout their lives,” he stressed.
The awarded grants benefit students from the elementary school level through the high school level and are distributed throughout the Somerville Public School system. Awarded grants have funded art projects, reading materials, visits to Somerville industries, and even metalsmithing. The DEI works with Somerville Public Schools to identify opportunities. As Treasurer Matt Holzer pointed out, “we become an incubator and can flexibly start programs the district can move forward with.”
The DEI requires the recipients of the grants to report back to the group with feedback and often receives thank you notes and photos. The organization hopes that soon photos of the funded projects will be available on its website so the larger community can see the impact it is making.
Though the Duhamel Education Initiative has a strong group of current members, the group is recruiting new members, “especially parents with
families in the school system, so we can broaden the reach of the group,” said Matt Holzer, treasurer of DEI and an assistant principal in South Boston.
The next event is the Walk to Support Somerville Public Schools, which takes places on June 3rd at noon in Davis Square. Larry Siraco has committed to wearing a pink tutu for the walk if he can raise $1,000. As Board of Directors member Doris McDaniel pointed out, “We’re trying to get a tutu to fit Larry. We’ll make it if we have to.” She emphasized that Larry is “willing to do anything and we’re trying hard to keep the kids in school.” Larry stressed that the walk is a visible way for people to support the organization. Around forty people participate in the walk, but the group wants to see that grow. “We want to get a large group of people. We’re inviting you to walk,” said President Siraco.
To find out how to get involved, visit the website duhameleducationinitiative.org or call Doris McDaniel at 617-623-3168. Contributions can be made by visiting the website or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 440113, Somerville, MA 02144.