A PTA group enhances its doughnuts with dad event by adding a school beautification project.

by Patty Catalano


What do you get when you mix dads, doughnuts, and dirt? A great parent group event and a beautiful school campus. And if you happen to drop by Calahan Street Elementary in Northridge, Calif., you’re bound to see many other ways that the school’s PTA is reaching out to the community and building a better school. We talked to PTA dads events chairman Shawn Minton about the group’s activities.

How did you go about planning and planting?
Our school received some “green” in the way of grants from an environmental organization, TreePeople; the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; and our Los Angeles school district. As part of the grant’s requirements, our PTA was responsible for getting tree-planting volunteers. So we purchased over 50 trees and flora for the school and coordinated the date for planting with our Doughnuts With Dad event.

How did the event go?
There might have been a few mix-ups between dirt and chocolate sprinkles, but our tree-planting event was great! Planters got to name their trees, and the students will be checking on them weekly. We had almost 200 people attend, including the superintendent of schools.

What else worked for your group last year, and what are you working on for the new school year?
We held an awesome 1950s family sock hop that we would like to run again....Maybe try a carnival, plant more trees, finish our parent center, and increase participation in our Books and Beyond program. We’d like to get the community more involved in our neighborhood school, too. We’d also like to try a “moms and muffins” event and grandparents breakfast and offer more free family activity nights, like a heritage night. It would be nice to get our newsletters and flyers made in other languages, too.

What’s been your group’s biggest challenge?
Getting parents to realize [that] an hour or less of volunteer time is all that is needed; it doesn’t have to take hours. We have to change the perception that PTAs and PTOs are only for moms. Dads and other family, friends, and neighbors need to be included.

The Group
Calahan Street Elementary PTA, Northridge, Calif.

School size: 513 students, preK-5
Budget: $13,000
Fundraisers: Cookie dough and holiday wrapping paper
Motto: “If you’re not having fun, why are you here?” and “It’s for the kids.”

What we’ve learned this year:

Word-of-mouth is the best way to get parents involved. Holding fun, free or low-cost family events is a great way to get your foot in the door to get volunteers and increase parent participation.

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