Our Mother of Perpetual Help School in Ephrata made quite the debut in its foray into the Extraordinary Give last month. The PreK-8 school rang up an astounding $145,127 in Lancaster County’s annual day of giving on Nov. 20. The one-day marathon inspires donors to make online contributions to boost local non-profits and schools at the start of the holiday season. The event is an initiative of the Lancaster County Community Foundation.
Faculty, students and parents reveled as they watched the donations climb, and rejoiced in seeing the support for their school.
“There were a lot of tears shed when the faculty and staff realized just how much OMPH School means to our families,” said Jen Francis, the school’s Director of Marketing and Enrollment.
According to the Extraordinary Give’s website, www.extragive.org, more than 30,000 donors gave in excess of $13.4 million to 522 local organizations. Our Mother of Perpetual Help School was the 14th highest recipient, with 447 individuals coming together to contribute the more than $145,000 tally.
“It shows the incredible support OMPH School has from our community. Our supporters that day were inspired to give more than ever, investing in our school like they never have before,” Francis said.
She noted that the funds will be used for tuition assistance and to help fund the technology needs that have come to the forefront during the pandemic.
The overwhelming financial contribution is also enabling OMPH to create a new preschool program.
“We are proud to announce we will be offering full-day preschool for ages three and four, five days a week for the 2021-22 school year,” Francis shared. “Without the generous financial support of the OMPH community, these important advances in our growth could not occur.”
A Grassroots Campaign
The dividends are the result of months of planning and promoting on the school’s part.
The idea to participate in Lancaster County’s grassroots fundraiser was initiated by the school’s Advancement Director, Teresa Hartman, and was a big change from the school’s usual in-person fall fundraiser with auctions, raffles and food.
Plans for the school’s participation in the online day of giving began in the summer.
“Before we could promote the Extra Give at OMPH School and ask our community to support us, we had to really nail down who OMPH School is and where is OMPH School going,” Francis explained.
“We started a complete rebranding process, including a new logo and new tagline, to focus on OMPH School being in the forefront of Catholic education. We held focus groups with parents and staff, and when we heard positive feedback like, ‘OMPH School is the best thing that ever happened to my children’ and ‘We are 100% behind supporting OMPH School,’ we knew the Extraordinary Give could be the biggest one day of fundraising in our 63 years,” she said.
The school used social media posts with videos of students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents promoting the school and why they “give extra” to it. Direct mailers were sent to past supporters, and the parish community was reminded of the online giving event via signs on Our Mother of Perpetual Help’s campus.
The school’s initial goal was $90,000, spurred on by a group of benefactor who offered matching donations once the target was reached. It was quickly surpassed, as OMPH met its goal by lunchtime, with 12 hours’ worth of donations still to come.
“We were so excited to participate in the Lancaster County Community Foundation’s Extra Give program supporting OMPH School. It was so much fun watching the updates throughout the day,” said Debbie and Dave Lombardi, parents of an OMPH student.
“This is our daughter’s second year at OMPH School. She loves going to school! OMPH creates a warm and welcoming environment for students and families. In addition to an excellent academic program, it is important to us that she is receiving a faith-based education with good moral role models. We love being part of the church and school community. We hope by participating in the Extra Give program that it helps to bring awareness to the OMPH school and demonstrate the positive impact that the school has in our community.”
As the day of giving progressed, Father Jim Szobonya, C.Ss.R., associate pastor, joined faculty and students in cheering on the progress with cheers and pom-poms. School-wide announcements of the donations were made over the intercom every hour, and teachers were handing out notecards with QR codes so parents could donate from their cell phones.
“Catholic schools provide an amazing education on a very low budget and have some of the best teachers I’ve ever known, who really care about their students,” said Dr. Julie Lehr, mother of two OMPH students. “Personally, my Catholic education played a pivotal role in helping me to become the adult I am today. That is why I send my children to Catholic school and was more than happy to contribute through the Extraordinary Give.”
Parent Maggie Hunt is the mother of two OMPH students. She said when they moved to the Ephrata area, she was searching for a Catholic school that could give her children the same experience she had as a child.
“Being Catholic in my hometown, we had a large parish. I was surprised that it was significantly smaller in Ephrata. I chose to donate to the Extra Give because I know that some of the money will go towards someone receiving a scholarship and I hope I can contribute to enriching the lives of children in the way my kids are with their education at OMPH,” Hunt said.
“The school provides an open and welcoming community that money cannot buy. My kids are loved and feel comfortable, every day. The teachers have excellent communication with family members,” she added.
School officials plan to carry the momentum of this year’s Extraordinary Give into next year’s donation drive. As OMPH begins investing the donations into tuition assistance, technology and a preschool program, it remains grateful for the generous support found in its inaugural endeavor with the fundraiser.
“OMPH School would like to thank the Lancaster County Community Foundation and their sponsors for this amazing fundraising opportunity. We’d also like to personally thank all who donated to OMPH School that day, especially those challenge grant donors who pushed us to raise the bar,” Francis said. “We are so very excited to participate in the Extra Give again next year. The sky’s the limit!”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness