Kia Bennett

President
Edgewood Elementary Volunteer Organization, Pottstown, Pa.

 

Best known for: Cultivating a welcoming and hospitable climate for parents at the school. Bennett, a single mom with two elementary-age sons, took over as EVO president last fall. “My goal is to inspire the cooperation and confidence of all of the parents involved,” she says. “I do this by offering constant encouragement [and] constructive suggestions, and encouraging active involvement of all our parents.”

Sinking the clique ship: Bennett’s first objective was to combat the EVO’s clique reputation. “We needed to provide equally distributed volunteer opportunities to the parents,” she recalls. She says she and other parents felt put off because only a few members were called upon to help out. Now, monthly tasks are divvied up among all parents.

All hands (and feet) on deck: Another winning EVO involvement strategy is to publicly thank all those who contribute “behind the scenes,” such as by decorating the gym for the annual holiday singalong, donating snacks, or purchasing Christmas gifts for students. Bennett designed a special Twister-themed bulletin board to recognize volunteers; colorful cutouts of hands and feet are inscribed with their names and the tasks they completed, along with the slogan “Thanks for putting your best foot forward to support our school.” “There are so many things that need to be done when planning an event,” she explains, “so any and all contributions are greatly appreciated.”

Making communication waves: “Personally I think that in order to get more parents to become involved, communication is the key,” Bennett says. She tries to greet parents as often as possible and encourages them to discuss ideas during casual conversations. “If you can effectively organize their ideas for presentation and acceptance, you will convey an impression that will reflect favorably on your organization,” she says. “This year, my motto is ‘The only bad idea is the unspoken one.’ ”

Full steam ahead: Thanks to its pool of volunteers, the EVO launched several new family activities this year, including a fall festival and a school beautification day. Bennett also recently transformed the school’s library into a café and held a “Thanks a Latte” breakfast for staff. “Our teachers have commented that they feel a strong presence from our group this year that they have never felt before, and they love it,” she says.