Five years ago St. Rose St. Mary’s School almost closed its doors for good.
“It costs a lot of money to run a Catholic school,” said Leah Wojnowiak, pre-kindergarten tacher at St. Rose St. Mary’s School. “We had depleted our funds and our sources to help that we were receiving. … We had a big shortfall of money to make up. It really meant cutting our staff down to maybe two or three positions and they didn’t think that was a viable way, and they thought we may need to close the doors.”
A group of people wouldn’t let that happen though, as they undertook the challenge to raise the funds required to save the school.
“There were a lot of parents, students and staff who wouldn’t accept that answer, so we fought,” Wojnowiak said. “We formed a committee and worked on projects and we had to make $350,000.”
Autumne Gee, parish coordinator of marketing, stewardship, and development, for St. Rose Parish, added that the timeframe to raise the money was only a few months.
A steering committee was formed and the committee began working to raise the funds. The committee looked to local donors, but also wanted to raise funds through fundraisers within the community, and appeal to alumni. It also went after bigger third party funding.
Some of the events held included: a bowling event, walking event, and grilling event.
“We did those sorts of fundraisers as well as reaching out to parishioners that really helped us present a solid number to the parish council so they could see that this would be enough to sustain us for a couple years. We got the OK at that time to stay open,” Gee said.
Gee said the initial approval was for about two years. An anonymous donor gave a large contribution and the school is now approaching the five year anniversiary of almost closing.
Wojnowiak said the vision of the school is for much further past five years.
“Through the $350K steering committee we really opened the eyes of not only our own parishioners but former alumni,” Wojnowiak said. “We found out that Catholic education was really important to a lot of people. We annually appeal to those alumni and we get a really nice response every year that goes right back into that fund.”
The time the school almost closed was a scary time, Gee said.
“For me, because I was teaching fifth and sixth, that’s one reason why I really wanted to jump onboard the steering committee so I could play a positive roll and have a positive impact on saving the school,” Gee said. “I was worried because you always think about yourself and work. But I also thought about the kids and what a sad situation it would be for them to have to leave the comforts and support of this school because I knew what we were offering them was something really special. I was also sad for the community to think that they could be losing the only Catholic school within a pretty big radius.”
Wojnowiak added, “Not only did I teach here and have children attending the school, but I am a former alumni of the school. And I knew what a special experience it is and I wanted that for my children. For that to get cut short I just couldn’t stand for that so of course I became an active member of the $350K committee.”
When the committee reached its goal it was a relief, but both Wojnowiak and Gee knew the fundraising wasn’t done.
“I knew also what that meant, a lot of continuous hard work to keep us here,” Gee said. “We didn’t want to work that hard and for me, I didn’t want to let people down.”
Last year the Community Parish Palooza event was added as a fundraiser.
This year’s Palooza is schedule for Sept. 13.
Gee stressed the event as a community-wide and beyond event.
“Just getting people together to show the vitality of not just the St. Rose Parish but also the school and the important role the parish has on the school and vice versa,” Gee said. “The children we have here are crucial members of the community and of the parish.”
Gee added that the mission of the event is to bring the community together in fun, creative ways with different activities.
Activities include bands playing, a youth talent show, baking and art contests for youth, as well as children carnival games. There will be fun activities for adults also. There will also be a craft and art fair that includes local vendors.
This year’s palooza will be one day instead of three days.
“For being the first year it was actually really successful,” Gee said. “This year we’re hoping to double the amount of people which was right around 400 and double the revenue.”
The event will take place on the parish’s grounds, and will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Updates for the Palooza can be found on the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/st.rose.parishpalooza.
Proceeds will be divided between the Parish’s stewardship campaign, which is kicking off in the fall. Some proceeds will go back to the school.