Like so many other parents throughout Philadelphia, the parents of students at J.S Jenks School in Chestnut Hill have grown tired of budget cuts and losing programs. Members of the J.S. Jenks Home and School Association (HSA) have decided to form a fundraising group they are calling “Friends of J.S. Jenks”.
Approximately a dozen Jenks families, along with prospective families, are working on establishing this group. “The purpose is for us to be able to do long-term strategic fundraising,” explains Vanessa Yingling, Ph. D., J.S. Jenks parent and HSA member. These funds will support capital improvements, infrastructure improvements, and create innovative programming.
The Jenks HSA will continue to exist as an organization for parents and staff to support small, short-term needs during the school year but the Friends of J.S. Jenks will focus on longer term fundraising and fostering community partnerships. A representative of the HSA will be included on the board of the Friends group so that the two organizations can ensure that they are working with one another but not overlapping.
Although the Friends of J.S. Jenks have only just begun, the group does plan to apply for non-profit (501c3) status and has already created five working subcommittees to help define the organization’s purpose, structure, and operation. These include: Legal & Bylaws, Public Relations/Marketing & Development, Accounting & Budgeting, Vision & Mission, Website Development.
Yingling emphasizes that in many ways, the Friends of JS Jenks will be a community effort involving Jenks’ teachers, administrators, HSA representatives, business owners, community members and leaders. Since the bylaws are still in draft form, it is too soon to identify the exact make-up of the board of directors and specifically the board representation.
Leveraging community partnerships is a critical part of their plan. The Friends will be seeking a fiscal sponsor so they will be able to fundraise in the short term while they gain their independent 501c3 status. Yingling says that the group hopes to develop long term relationships in the community and organizer Haviva Goldman explains one of the group’s primary goals – to integrate Jenks into the community better. “Jenks is Chestnut Hill’s neighborhood public school, and while it is among the strongest of Philadelphia public elementary schools, many families in the neighborhood don’t consider Jenks as a school option for their child, and the neighborhood loses countless young families to the suburbs when kindergarten rolls around,” says Goldman.
She explains that families, businesses, and the community all benefit from having a strong public school in the neighborhood. “We hope that Friends of J.S. Jenks can help strengthen both the school and the Chestnut Hill community.”