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Tips to Finding Local Donations and Discounts for School Events

Plan ahead for the year's highlights by tapping resources in San Mateo and beyond.

Today we feature a "bonus" MomsTalk from Candyce Amaya, with lots of special tips for parents of San Mateo students.

I recently co-chaired the reception for the eighth 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 more than 1,000 students and guests.

Traditionally, the seventh grade class hosts the reception for the eighth grade graduation in order to allow the proud parents of the graduates to sit back and enjoy their child’s accomplishments without the distraction of food-duty.

As generous as our seventh grade parents were, many supplies weren’t donated and we hated the thought of spending precious graduation fund dollars on our needs. So we utilized our knowledge of area merchants and were pleasantly surprised by their generosity.

As always, was quick to provide us with three dozen of their wonderful muffins. Il Fornaio in Burlingame contributed two dozen pastries. Hobee’s in Belmont donated two platters of coffee cake. Then we had the gift card from that paid for 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 generously donated items, and the money and goods contributed by our seventh grade parents, we were able to give back some money to the graduation fund. This isn’t the only time we’ve relied on the generosity of our merchants for our school events. I’ve found that quite often, it only takes asking for the merchant come forward with a wonderful contribution.

Chipotle in San Mateo (used to be in Foster City) and in Foster City have always been fantastic, donating chips, salsa, guacamole, cooked meat – whatever it seems we needed. 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, as I discovered 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 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.

Barb Boschetto July 31, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Living Peacefully at 411 South B Street in San Mateo is giving $5.00 to the school of your choice with t-shirt purchase. All shirts are $20.00. Borel Middle School has $120.00 so far. With St. Ignatius High School following with $80.00. Several schools will be receiving donations. We are excited about being able to help out our local schools!

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