I recently co-chaired the reception for the eight grade graduation class from Foster City’s middle school, . It was a lovely graduation ceremony and the class was quite large – we were expected to provide snacks and beverages for over 1,000 students and guests.
It is tradition for the seventh grade class to put on the reception for the eight grade graduation in order to allow the proud parents of the eight graders to sit back and enjoy their child’s accomplishments without having to worry about the quickly dwindling supply of food and beverages set out for the guests.
As generous as our seventh grade parents were, there were many supplies that weren’t donated and we hated the thought of spending precious dollars in the graduation fund for our needs. So, we utilized our knowledge of generous merchants and were so pleasantly surprised.
As always, was quick to provide us with three dozen of their wonderful muffins. Il Fornaio in Burlingame volunteered to contribute two dozen scrumptious pastries. Hobee’s in Belmont was extremely generous with the two platters of coffee cake they donated. Then we had the gift card from that purchased condiments, the free balloon bouquet from Diddam’s for our decorations, the many, many potted plants that in San Mateo donated for our centerpieces, the bags of day-old (but still delicious) bagels from Noah’s Bagels in San Mateo, and the list goes on.
With our generous donated items and the money and items contributed from our seventh grade class parents, we were able to give back some money to the graduation fund. This isn’t the only time we’re relied on the generosity of our merchants for our school events. I’ve found that quite often, it only takes asking to have the merchant come forward with a wonderful donation.
Chipolte in San Mateo (used to be in Foster City) and in Foster City have always been fantastic in donating chips, salsa, guacamole, cooked meat – whatever it seems we were in need of. I chaired a cake walk for school a few years ago and when I discovered that we had less than half the number of baked goods donations from our parents that I expected, I called Heidi’s Pies and told them of my dilemma – they were quick to donate 15 pies.
Then there are the deals that merchants can arrange with us – Michael’s Arts & Crafts in San Mateo offers a 15 percent discount to teachers (and can sometimes extend that to supplies for school parties if you bring proof from your teacher), in Foster City has arranged very good discounts on mass quantities of pizza I’ve purchased from them when buying for the 100 graduating fifth graders a couple years ago and for other smaller parties.
There’s no end to what you can come up with if you ask sincerely and honestly. We realize that no merchant can donate to every event and each has a limit when I’ve made a request. I’ve learned that I need to ask early because of the merchants restrictions and to be flexible in what I’m asking for – granted, we had asked Diddam’s for paper plates and they were unable to provide those for us but they generously offered the balloon bouquet to us instead.
Many merchants have had to cut back on donations because of other deals they now have with the schools (such as Escript) and also because of the economy, but I can tell from my conversations with them that most merchants do want to help and will make every effort to find a way to do so. So don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is they say “no” and you then call the next number on your list. Spend the time on the phone prior to your shopping, speak only to managers and make sure to get their names when a commitment is made, and be honest with them regarding your dilemmas and issues – most will want to help you if they can.