I started this journey just like many other moms out there. My baby was going to first grade and I felt like I needed to be more involved at school, but because I had two little ones I couldn't get into the classroom to help. When the PTA asked for volunteers I selected several boxes and was asked to be the treasurer. This was a great place for me; I learned so much about the needs that the school, the families at the school and the parents had.
From 2009-2011, I served as PTA president. Due to my experience as treasurer, I was able to work with our board to allow our budget to allow each grade level $850 a year ($5,600) for Science in the Classroom Opportunities. This reduced the cost of field trips for our families and allowed science programs to come to our school up to four times a year. It was very well received by families, students and teachers. We were able to provide each teacher with a $25 gift card with left over funds that we had saved through the year. We are a year round school so the classrooms can get extremely hot. We were able to purchase fans for each classroom and provide them with over 500 pieces of PE equipment for free through a partnership program with Labels for Education.
As president, I wore many hats, but had a lot of help. I was in charge of fundraisers, directory and spirit wear. People would joke with me that I must sleep there because I was there over track outs, and at times, multiple times a day. I also developed a website because we didn't have one. It has currently been updated by our fabulous new president. That's the thing; there is always room for change. It really takes a basic idea and some great creative minds coming together and you will be amazed at what you can come up with.
In 2009 I created a non-profit children's charity named Pajama Pals. The purpose of Pajama Pals was to provide children from age birth to age 18 with a pair of new pajamas and books that they can call their own. I was thrilled to partner with Disney and the Volunteers for Change Program. In six months we received over 32,000 books and pajamas for families in need. In the first two years we collected nearly 75,000 books and new pajamas and have since donated them out to great places like UNC Children's Hospital, Wake County Social Services, Ronald McDonald and SECU Family Houses, and several elementary schools. Christmas was our busiest time; we would "adopt" around 300 children each year from local schools. The schools would give us the students as well as any children at home. The gifts would be wrapped and presented to the children, many of whom would have nothing to open on Christmas morning. Not a single child was left off the list; everyone received one or two books, a new pair of pajamas, toothbrush and toothpaste. Another school we worked with had the children earn complements and once each child got 100 we came and hosted a pajama party! Each child got a new book or two and a new pair of pajamas. I was humbled by the fact that many of the children had never had a book of their own to keep.
Knowing that we had children in our school that Pajama Pals could help, I donated books to children to read over their track out breaks. I also donated books for special outreach nights so that the teachers could have conversations with the parents that they normally wouldn't be able to see and the children could be entertained with books that they could then take home. I also donated several hundred books for the teacher's classroom collections.
I hope that I have been a good example of what a vision, some creativity and lots of determination mixed together can create. I could not have been as successful if it weren't for the support of my friends, family and my great school family.
Mandy Patterson has been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for her work in the PTA.