Noe Valley Voice April 2000

Fairmount School Gets a Nice Gift from Christmas in April

By Heidi Anderson

The kids at Fairmount Elementary School are getting a little extra attention this year. On March 2, actor Robin Williams dropped in to read from Dr. Seuss books for an hour in honor of Dr. Seuss Read-Aloud Day, and this month the school building will be receiving some sprucing up, free of charge.

On Saturday, April 29, about one hundred volunteers from the group Christmas in April will descend on the Chenery Street school to clean, paint, re-carpet, and do other needed repairs.

The elves will focus on the school's library, parts of which haven't been upgraded since the mid-'70s when the school was built.

"We will be remodeling," says Fairmount librarian Pat Gartman, "moving things around, creating a stage area for puppet play, pulling up the old carpet,, and painting the walls." Gartman adds that no bookshelf space will be sacrificed in the new plan.

PTA President Chris Loughran, who worked with Gartman to apply for the aid from Christmas in April, is ecstatic about the gift.

"Literacy has been the focus here at Fairmount," she notes, "and we'll be creating an atmosphere to encourage children to spend more time in the library."

Loughran also hopes a Plexiglas sliding door that was graffiti-tagged several years ago will finally be replaced.

Christmas in April/San Francisco is a nonprofit organization that repairs and renovates facilities used by low-income, elderly, and disabled San Francisco residents. The group has been active in the city for 11 years and is part of the national Christmas in April, which began in Texas 27 years ago. Noe Valley residents may remember the extensive work the group did for the Noe Valley Ministry building four years ago.

Christmas in April provides all the materials and many of the volunteers to accomplish its whirlwind projects. It also tries to match up schools or senior centers with businesses that are eager to donate funds and send out a crew of employees on a Saturday. (The minimum donation is $3,000 and 30 volunteers.)

Maureen Carew, executive director of Christmas in April/San Francisco, says Fairmount will be getting a helping hand from several businesses, including the San Francisco ­ based internet company Hungry Minds and the Lebanon-Pacific Lodge, a local chapter of Freemasons.

Hungry Minds, which describes itself as the "Yahoo of education," offers a catalog of online courses available at major colleges and universities. The Lebanon-Pacific Lodge is continuing a tradition it began five years ago with a Christmas in April project at Galileo High School.

Group Gives PTA High Marks

Carew says the Fairmount project is one of about 65 events her agency is sponsoring the weekend of April 29 ­ 30.

Fairmount qualified for the funds and volunteers, she says, because "Fairmount has an active, organized PTA, but needed assistance getting some things done." Carew notes that the projects planned for the school are ones that are relatively easy to accomplish in a single day without a great deal of skilled labor.

But the Christmas in April visit is meant to do more than just replace some old carpet.

"This will help bring our school community together," says Loughran, who has 40 parents already lined up for the 29th and is seeking neighbors from around the school as well. "This is our chance to show them the great things that are happening here."

Though Fairmount is a public school, Loughran is grateful for the outside help and doesn't begrudge the San Francisco Unified School District for attending to more urgent issues elsewhere. "These are projects we've wanted to do but understandably are not a priority for the school district at this time."

Those who live near Fairmount (65 Chenery near 30th), and who would like to help on April 29, don't need any special skills, just their time and some elbow grease. Small children, however, would not be safe around the paint and tools and should remain with someone at home.

The hundred or so people who will attend on Saturday, April 29, will receive a lunch and a special T-shirt to commemorate the day.

For more information, call Fairmount PTA President Chris Loughran at 415-333-7395.