Strong participation in the PTA Equity Project festival

Families enjoyed an afternoon of arts and crafts, games, shopping and food at a community-building event that was also a fundraiser for the PTA Equity Project ( PEP) of District 65, which ensures that PTA resources are distributed equitably among schools in the district.

“This is the first time we have been able to host an in-person event involving all of our APTs,” said PEP Co-Chair Fuschia Winston.

Katie Paquette shows off her windmill at the PTA Equity Project (PEP) party on Saturday. Credit: Adina Keeling

The festival, which took place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 4, in the Washington Elementary School playground, featured food trucks, music, a hair coloring station, a game bowling, a raffle, a book exchange and tons of art.

Yet all of this cost the PTA nothing and a lot of it was free. “We did this event without money,” Winston said. The community responded with whatever was needed when organizers asked for supplies and volunteers, she said.

Proceeds from the event will be distributed among schools, and in the past some schools have used these funds to purchase more books and supplies for students, strengthen in-school programming, organize extracurricular activities, provide groceries to students in need and organize events, Winston said.

Natalie Rey gets her hair sprayed pink. Credit: Adina Keeling

Prior to 2020, when PEP voted to redistribute resources, each school’s PTA raised funds independently – but there was a huge difference between schools.

“What we’ve seen happen is that some schools have been able to raise huge funds for students… [while] some schools don’t have a PTA,” Winston said.

Now, the money raised by each APE is pooled and then distributed based on the number of students participating in the free and reduced meal program, Winston explained.

“We are a community, we collaborate,” Winston said. “We’re trying to disrupt those things that have made our community unfair, especially for our kids.”

To open up the festival to the whole community, organizers included a retail space and ensured that many activities remained free, Winston said.

Samanaa Manaur, Jessica Rauh and Lakshmi Hoff-Sharna sold handmade key chains, bracelets, pencil cases and soft toys. Credit: Adina Keeling

PEP Fest also hosted young entrepreneurs: Dewey Elementary School fifth graders Samanaa Manaur, Jessica Rauh and Lakshmi Hoff-Sharna sold keychains, wristbands, pencil cases and soft toys handmade.

They started their business, called Krafty Kat, during the pandemic when they started selling items they knit, Sydney said. After that, they expanded to include non-knit products, which they sell at local community events, she added.

“Seventy-five percent goes to charity and then the rest is used to buy more supplies,” Sydney said. They donated to an animal shelter and health care.

Another group of entrepreneurs, brothers Dominic and Jacqueline Ribeiro, sold lemonade and dog treats. Owner of the lemonade stand, Dominic said he helped make the lemonade and enjoyed running the stand. “We had a lot of customers today,” he said.

JJ Garcia sold tamales from Tamalito, a restaurant in Rogers Park. And while the day got off to a slow start, business picked up in the afternoon. “We’ve had to refuel three times already,” Garcia said.

JJ and Amalia Garcia sell tamales and snacks. Credit: Adina Keeling

A representative from each APE had a stand offering manual activities or games. Representing the Bessie Rhodes PTA, Lara Fickels helped children plant wildflower seeds. She said the turnout for the festival was great and it was nice to be back in person after everything was online for so long during the pandemic.

Sarah Petersen of the Willard PTA, ran a wind turbine manufacturing station. His son, Jonas, helped, which he said was difficult at times, as he had not yet perfected his technique of making windmills. Although he got better throughout the day.

Petersen said the PEP committee worked very hard to organize the festival and the children seemed to really enjoy the activities. “It’s great to have an event where all the schools can come together,” she said. “It was fun seeing friends from different schools in the district and meeting new friends.”

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