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Dads find unique ways to be involved in schools

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Dads and Dirt 2
Scott Philp, Brad Minter and Durwin Ritter were at a recent Dads ’N’ Dirt event at Wellington Elementary School. Courtesy photo.
Bernie Deuster is in the insurance business, working an 8-5 day during the week, which leaves him with little opportunity to volunteer in his children’s classes at Wellington Elementary.

With “Dads ’N’ Dirt,” however, he is able to be involved in his kids’ school community in an integral way.

“I proposed the program to the PTA two years ago,” explains Deuster, “because I thought it would be a good way for dads to participate and have a positive effect on their kids’ educational experience.”

He adds, “We meet once a quarter to help beautify the grounds of the school, doing everything from spreading bark and trimming bushes to pressure-washing sidewalks and raking leaves”

Typically, 20 to 25 people show up, bringing their own tools and equipment for the projects. The school district provides the bark and mulch, which it gets from tree services, while Home Depot has generously given the group some grant money to purchase additional supplies.

“Monies are tight in the district,” comments Deuster, “and the grounds crew is very thin. There’s just not the time or the resources to do the type of work they once did around the schools. We try and fill in the void, so that the money that is there can be spent on kids’ learning.”

The program gradually began to attract moms as well as dads, and even grandparents who wanted to participate, too.

Deuster doesn’t turn away anyone, adding, “Any help is good help. We’d like to have 50 people show up because that would allow us to do more.”

The Woodinville man notes that the group, which meets on a designated Saturday morning, usually consists of a number of regulars who are committed to the project.

“We work hard and we take pride in making the school grounds look nice,” he adds. “But, we also have fun in the process.”

Over at Bear Creek Elementary, Jeremy Smith and Jim Pender are also interested in getting more dads involved in their children’s school experience.

With the support of Principal Gary Keeler and the PTA, the men have just initiated a new activity called “Dads and Donuts.” Smith says, “We’re going to meet with our kids at the fire station near Bear Creek before school one day and the firefighters are going to take us on a tour and talk to us about fire safety. And, of course, we’ll have donuts for everyone who shows up. Then we’ll all walk back over to school together.”

This will be a trial event, according to Smith, but he hopes it will become an annual activity.

“I don’t know how many dads and kids will come,” he adds. “We’re spreading the word and we’re hoping to get about a hundred total, which would be great. There’s also the possibility of maybe doing some other activities.”

Like Deuster, Smith has difficulty volunteering in his kids’ classrooms, as it’s hard for him to break away from work mid-day.

He comments, “This is one way for me and for other dads in the same situation to participate in our children’s education.”

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