Wednesday, April 25, 2018

School Volunteer Ice Cream Social

This past weekend, I organized and hosted an ice cream social for our school volunteers. It was the first one of its kind that's funded and given by the school PTSA. As a volunteer coordinator this year, I have been trying to push for an appreciation event for all our volunteers since the beginning of the school year. The teachers have countless appreciation events that the PTSA organizes for them and they are showered with gifts throughout the year but we never did much for our volunteers. Plus, the teachers get paid and we offer our time for free. I mean teachers are great but so are volunteers and I saw that we needed to do much more for them. By showing volunteers that we value them, not only will we help recruit new volunteers and retain volunteers, but we will also inspire and encourage existing volunteers to do more.

It's not like we were getting nothing. There is always a volunteer breakfast at the end of the year that is hosted by the teachers but only a select few of us get an invitation. The volunteers that have a presence at the school usually get invited but many of our volunteers work from home behind the scenes. I'm one of them! And no, last year I was never invited even though I put over 300 hours of volunteer work towards the school. That's just not right. Instead of getting mad at the PTSA, I decided to make things right by being a volunteer coordinator this year.

Last week was National Volunteer Week and April is National Volunteer Month. In celebration of this and to show appreciation towards our PTSA, we had an ice cream social. And it was a success! I am so relieved the volunteer ice cream social is now over. It wasn't actually a lot of work because it was just ice cream. Everyone kind of expected me to do something after pitching so many appreciation ideas but after a few failed attempts at getting a budget approval, I didn't really want anything to do with it anymore. I was also busy with other stuff too. But then they started asking me about it and so I felt I had to do something. The ice cream social for our volunteers during National Volunteer Month was easily approved. Even if we didn't have something to celebrate, a social for volunteers was important for volunteers to get to know one another. The work and cost was minimal and we couldn't have been luckier with the weather. The event was held at the school playground and field to keep it nearby and to save costs on renting a venue.

I made a poster. Actually I made many posters. That's kind of my thing lately. I'm the poster/flyer lady. After this event, I'll probably be known as the ice cream lady. They are already asking me to do it for the next school next year. The boundary changes in our neighborhood is sending us to a new school next year. And yesterday, they were trying to recruit me for VP of Volunteers on the board. I sort of said no. I think I need a break.

The event was a hit for everyone who made it out but my estimates were really off. I proposed a budget based on attendance for 200 people and I pre-bought ice cream in advance when they were on sale. If all our volunteers came out with the their family, that could have easily been more than 400. I took a risk but only half my estimate RSVPed yes to the invite. Of that, only about 70% actually showed up. What! I did not expect that one. So we had leftover ice cream. A LOT of leftover ice cream. I don't think I can return them so I'm just going to eat them all over the next several months and get fat. Ha!

114 people replied yes to my invite. I brought along 15 tubs of ice cream, expecting extra people to show up because of the nice weather. I recruited three parent volunteers to help scoop ice cream, trying to stay away from board members. If anyone needs a break, it would be the board members! However, one of my good friends insisted on helping and she's on the board so she was the exception:) The other volunteer coordinator was also present to lend us a canopy tent and to help at the greeting table and help set up. Yes, we had a greeting table for an informal check-in where volunteers could get name tags. The idea was for them to write their name, along with a program or event that they helped with at the school.

We also had three kids help with sundae toppings. My son, my friend's daughter, and my son's friend, who was also the child of one of our ice cream scoopers. The kids of all the adult volunteers were actually very helpful in setting up too and were even fighting over turns with the toppings stations. I really wanted to involve the kids to help give relief to more parent volunteers. Let's not forget this was a volunteer appreciation event as well.

Here was what I brought along to the ice cream event:

9 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Vanilla Ice Cream
3 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Chocolate Ice Cream
3 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Strawberry Ice Cream
1 box of 12 single fruit popsicle sticks (dairy-free)

42 oz Crushed Oreos
1 tub (7lb 8 oz) Chocolate Syrup
10+ oz Colored Sprinkles
2 bags mini marshmallows (10 oz coloured, 10 oz white)
1 jar Cherries in Syrup (containing over 100 cherries)

160 small water bottles (8 oz each)
4 bags of ice (7 lbs each)

What I should have brought instead:

5 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Vanilla Ice Cream
2 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Chocolate Ice Cream
2 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Strawberry Ice Cream
2 box of 12 single fruit popsicle sticks (dairy-free)

20 oz Crushed Oreos
1 small bottle Chocolate Syrup
5 oz Colored Sprinkles
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 jar Cherries in Syrup (containing over 100 cherries)

80 small water bottles (8 oz each)
4 bags of ice (7 lbs each)

As you can see, I totally overdid it! Lol. But this is the first time we did this so now we know. The idea was to give each person a generous 6 oz ice cream serving in a cup. That is like 2 big scoops of ice cream. Unfortunately, we started off serving smaller scoops but I didn't notice since I was so busy with the setup of the sundae topping table. Half way through the event, I told our volunteers to offer up to 3 scoops and we allowed people to come back for seconds and even third servings! Lol. The event was only 1 hour long but the ice creams were already starting to melt.

Here are a few tips I would give to those who are thinking about doing an ice cream social:
  • Expect only about 80% of the RSVPs to actually show up & even those that show up may not want any ice cream
  • Be generous on the ice creams and toppings. It's hard to run out.
  • Don't pre-purchase ice cream until you have a good idea of the numbers.
  • Ice cream sundaes are great but even the non-dairy people wanted popsicles. Easier to have?
  • Buy an extra bag of ice or two. That may help keep the ice cream colder.
  • When there is no lineup, put the ice cream back in the coolers.
  • 1 hour for the social is plenty! Any longer and there will be a big melty mess.
  • Here was one of my favorite resource page:

It took me a few weeks here and there to research, organize, design the posters, search and shop for bargains and supplies. The cost of the event was only about $128, which included the cost of about $20 for posters. I made the posters with the idea that they could be reused year after year. So more cost savings down the road. Because I'm a skilled bargain hunter, I was able to buy a lot more and choose better quality ice cream and present everything in a more professional manner. We served Tillamook ice cream people! We were essentially able to give people pretty awesome sundaes at the cost of around $1.55 per person. Since we had so many leftover supplies, we could have served even more people and that would have brought the cost down even more. My goal was to keep it at no more than $2 per person so I'm quite happy with the final calculation. I'm a bit disappointed with the turn out but overall, I think the event was a success. And the weather was fantastic!  Yay:)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Ultimate Valentine Cupcakes

I am a Room Parent for my 9 year old son's class. As a Room Parent, I plan, prepare and some times host the class parties for Halloween, Valentine's, and the Year-End celebration. This involves researching ideas online for fun food creations and finding suitable craft projects or games for the age group in the class. Everything planned needs to be achievable in around 1 hour and has to be within the class party budget of roughly $50 per party. We are very fortunately at our school this year because our generous PTSA is giving every class up to $150 to spend on class parties for the year, which works out to be $50 per party. We buy what we need and then we reimburse for it. Since I make a lot of my own stuff from scratch, that is more than enough.

I have been a Room Parent since my son started school. Big surprise! I do spend a lot of time on it but I enjoy it. And it's only three times a year so it's not that tiring. *cough, cough* I love coming up with cool foods but the crafts are equally fun to work with too. To save time, I usually do a lot of prep work at home like pre-punching circles, pre-cutting triangles, and pre-painting sticks. And that was exactly what I did for our recent Valentine party! I can't do everything for them so the kids did have to cut out their own ears, eyes, glue, and write messages on the back of their craft. I think the cool part about the fox craft was that they could attach magnets to the back and put it up on their fridge.

Forget the craft, the showstopper at the party were the cupcakes though. But maybe it's because I love to eat sweets so much. I don't know. I made sure we served the cupcakes last. I had other healthier food servings like fruit cups and little cucumber bread bites to serve first. Another one of our awesome Room Parents made a fresh batch of strawberry watermelon lemonade as well. The kids in this class are truly spoiled!

Cara cara oranges, bananas, strawberries.

So about those cupcakes! Well, they weren't just cupcakes. They were cupcakes, cookies, and candies all in one. Why the heck not? I made my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and whipped up an extra large batch of swiss meringue buttercream. The cookies and XOX gummies were from Trader Joe's. And I'm so glad I bought them when they first arrived at the store. They sold out pretty fast! At first, I thought all the decorations were too much but now I think they were great. Because they're on top of the cupcakes, I was able to make sure everyone received the same thing and it was stuck on so nothing shifted during the travel to school. And they're kind of cute, no?

I was going to stop here. But then decided to keep going.

And just like that, we're down to one more party to do before school is over! I can do this people.
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