Local PTO needs your help -- Organizers worried about declining volunteer numbers

Lewistown K-8 Parent/Teacher Organization officers welcome new volunteers to participate in their program to help PTO remain a vital part of the local school system. Top row from left: secretary Alex Baumann and president Mariah Heitzman; bottom row from left: vice president Kelly Comer and treasurer Jennifer Weeden.
Photo by Charlie Denison

By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Reporter

Members and officers of Lewistown School’s Parent-Teacher Organization are growing concerned, as they are beginning to see numbers of volunteers dwindle.

But Alex Baumann, Mariah Heitzman, Kelly Comer and Jennifer Weeden won’t remain discouraged. Instead, they will continue to encourage the public to get involved.

“We always somehow manage to pull it off,” said Heitzman, PTO President, “but it’s usually in the last minute. It can get a little stressful.”

PTO is not unique in this concern.

Kelly Comer, vice president, said she sees the same with the 4-H Program.

“It’s always the same people who sign up to volunteer, and we’d love to see new faces,” she said.

But without volunteers, Comer said, PTO can’t function, and the officers said that would leave a hole for students, teachers and parents alike.

 

What is PTO?

A program that benefits all elementary schools in Lewistown, PTO assists children from kindergarten to eighth grade. Field trips snowshoeing, skiing in Showdown, venturing to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Zoo Montana or going on the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, PTO works to provide fun opportunities to enhance the elementary education experience for children of the Lewistown community. They also are instrumental in kindergarten screenings, arts programs and other school-related activities.

Most of those involved are parents, but anyone is welcome, said Baumann, PTO secretary.

“It can be a good way to get out of your comfort zone,” she said.

For parents, it can also be a good way to connect with other parents and get involved in the community.

“I started when my daughter was in kindergarten because I wanted to be more involved with her education,” said Weeden, PTO Treasurer. “Now my children are no longer in grades affiliated with PTO, but I’m still doing it.”

A big part of this is the relationships Weeden said she’s formed with fellow PTO members.

“All of us officers have our differences,” said Baumann, PTO secretary,  “and PTO is what brings us together.”

PTO is for anyone, Baumann said.

 

What PTO Does

Just recently PTO helped with “I Love to Read” month, putting fun activities together, such as Mad Libs, and challenging the students to read more.

“Just seeing the faces of the children and seeing their parents there was so great,” said Heitzman. “We had 44 volunteers come together, and at least 10 of them that volunteered don’t even have children in that age range anymore. It was really cool to see.”

PTO still has some momentum going. Their two big fundraisers – the spring carnival and the cookie dough sale – continue to go well.

“Last year the spring carnival raised $11,000,” Weeden said, “and the cookie dough sale raised around $9,000.”

“People are very generous,” Heitzman added. “It’s a fund-raising town.”

PTO officers said they appreciate the community support, but what they really wouldn’t mind seeing is people donating more time.

“When I first started helping out with PTO five years ago, I remember there were almost too many volunteers,” Baumann said. “When we did ‘I Love to Read’ month, for example, there were about three volunteers for each activity. There were dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles and moms. That kind of turnout has really been lacking in the last few years. I mean, to get even two volunteers for each activity is a struggle.”

Volunteering doesn’t have to be a big commitment, either, Heitzman added. Even one hour could make a big difference.

“We just want to help our children have a better education,” Baumann said. “We want to do all the extra things that need to be done, and we can use all the help we can get.”

PTO meets the third Monday of every month. Their next meeting is Monday, March 20 at 7 p.m. at the Lewis and Clark library. All are welcome.

Meetings are posted in the school calendars and on the PTO Facebook page, “Lewistown K-8 PTO,” which also posts volunteer opportunities and other PTO-related activities and events.

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