People who once enjoyed being a part of student council, the year book committee, the debate team etc. in high school/college go on to become board members on the Parent Advisory Council at their children’s school. Craving the chemical rush that comes with enforcing Robert’s Rules, gloating about being instrumental in achieving quorum and niggling over a stray $5 in the accounting ledgers, they will gladly give up personal time to fraternize with similarly inclined individuals, under the guise of helping the school. Being one of these people who used to revel in the glory of being an elected student union representative, I now find myself sitting on several different boards and committees, because, like crack, school level governance activities are dangerous and addictive. Or something.
Yesterday was the date of the annual Family Dance fundraiser. The dinner and dance is the largest single fundraiser that the school has annually, and is much anticipated and enjoyed by the student and parent populace. In addition to boogying down in the gym with kindergarteners and eating pizza on lunchroom tables in the dark, one can also enter raffles/bid on silent auction items, participate in glam photo shoots, and buy whimsical baked goods from the bake sale table.
I am the bake sale organizer.
Each year several dozen fantastic people donate their time/baking to make the bake sale a success. I spend several hours rounding those people up, receiving the goods, packaging/pricing, labelling, setting up tables, guarding the float and orientating the volunteers who do the selling. In the broader spectrum of things I do as a volunteer on the board, this is actually quite easy and mostly pleasant. I mean, who doesn’t like to molest cupcakes for hours on end?
In a past life, I had assumed that bake sales were a lacklustre, unimaginative stop gap in the fundraising tool kit, designed to make $60 so the Grade 7 class could pay for their transportation to camp, or the band class to put a deposit on new mustard coloured uniforms. In my experience, they were a bleak bastion of cigarette smoke infused, child-licked, margarine scented cupcakes with a sad jelly bean sinking into the middle of the pink canned icing. Or similarly cigarette smoke infused Rice Crispy Treats. (This is, bearing in mind, that I was a child in the 80’s, and everything was smoke infused.) Last year, when I first agreed to coordinate the bake sale, I thought that we’d make $180 – $200, and even that would be fantastic, because it lacks overhead, and is entirely funded and enabled by donations.
At this school, the bake sale brings in several tables worth of gorgeous, perfectly made baked goods, and sells out. People have favourites from years prior, and come looking for them. In the two years I have been responsible for it, it has raised over $500 annually. That money goes directly back into the school, and there is nothing chipping away at the profit – no secondary company making money off the backs of children, no licensing, nothing needing to be purchased and deducted as an expense. It’s all profit. Ergo, I love the bake sale.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon packaging/pricing/portioning the donations in the utility room of the school library. It took me three hours. Tiny cupcakes, hundreds of cookies, beautiful coffee cakes, squares, chocolate dipped berries – the only thing we lacked was pastry products like tarts/pies. There was a severe wind-chill in effect in Winnipeg, and I was dressed in several layers of clothing, and my big winter boots. They are not attractive boots, but they keep my feet warm, which is really all I care about when it’s twenty degrees below freezing and windy, and I have to stand around outdoors, waiting for kids to emerge from the school. They are so warm, in fact, that my feet sweat in them.
These boots, in their second season, are utterly rank.
This didn’t matter much to me, sequestered with the baking and zip lock bags in the utility room. Nobody was going to bother me and my feet.
That is, until I went to the front office to ask about the coffee percolator.
When the receptionist went to locate the percolator, I was left standing there at the desk, gazing at pamphlets about child abuse and ADHD.
Behind me, waiting to see the principal, were two boys. They were about 11 years old. They were in trouble for something, and since I don’t feel the need to ever engage the children of others for nothing, I pretended I didn’t see them.
As I doodled on a piece of scrap paper, waiting, I heard the boys talking:
“Man, it smells like GOATS in the office.”
“Yeah. Something in the office smells like a goat barn. Oh, man!”
“How would you know what a goat barn smells like?”
“My grandparents have goats. I smell them all summer. That’s how. GOD IT STINKS LIKE GOATS.”
“Ew. If that’s what goats smell like, I don’t like them. Is the school too poor for air freshener?”
It’s what my boots smell like.