Friday, February 24, 2012

Pinkberry Supports Community

The last few years have been rough.  Our school district has made a lot of really difficult decisions to keep from running a huge deficit.  In a few short years class size has gone up, almost 300 teaching positions were eliminated, elementary and middle school instrumental music programs were cut, middle school sports were cut and the elementary gifted and talented program no longer exists.  These cuts hit the community hard.  These programs are the "extra" or the "fat" that many felt needed to be cut to save the school budget.  These programs are not specifically required in the state Basic Education Plan (BEP) and were often referred to as "nice to have" programs.  The superintendent and the school committee were charged with making these difficult cuts as a result of a court ordered performance audit.  In the end these cuts have saved the district and the superintendent is hoping to bring many of them back in the upcoming years.

As a response to these difficult cuts a grassroots parent advocacy group was formed.  They call themselves BASICS (Benefiting All Students In Cranston Schools) and were started by a few moms who decided to do a bake sale to raise money to save music programs in the school.  In a short time they have created quite a following with hundreds of followers on Facebook, an executive board which meets regularly, numerous fundraising events, media coverage and the creation of an after school music enrichment program for elementary children.  The members of the group attend school committee meetings and speak passionately on a number of issues.

Unfortunately, over time support for BASICS began to wane, enthusiasm decreased and parents became complacent with the state of education in Cranston.  When the economy and budgets are so bad, people become indifferent.  The BASICS organization had difficulty raising the money needed to subsidize the after school music program  and it was uncertain if would exist past the current session.  Just when it seemed like it couldn't get much worse, in rides the Pinkberry frozen yogurt chain.  A new business in a competitive location decides to do the unthinkable. On a Thursday over February vacation they pledge to donate 100% of their profits to BASICS.  A shot of enthusiasm ran through the community.  It was promoted by every social media and traditional media outlet that exists.  Then, like a blessing from above, on a beautiful spring like day in February the line outside Pinkberry formed.  Everyone came out to support this worthy cause.  City councilors, school committee members, the mayor, parents and children lined the street outside the store.  Local kids played instruments and the mayor took a turn scooping yogurt.  I was there at 8:00 pm and the line was going strong.  We waited 30 minutes for our turn yet the staff at Pinkberry, which was getting slammed for 5-6 hours straight, was pleasant and let my children try every flavor before we placed our order.  The line was served past 10:00 pm when they were due to close.  The BASICS organizers stayed until closing and thanked every single group that came through for supporting the music program for the kids.  They raised over $7000 in one day.  Amazing!

A few final thoughts... 1) Thank you Pinkberry for supporting the community and the music program for the kids.  In this economy, businesses just don't donate 100% of anything to anybody.  Businesses are just trying to stay alive. 2) The yogurt was great and affordable and I would encourage anyone who has not gone to Pinkberry to give it a try.  They deserve the business after what they did for our community. 3) The community really came together on this one.  It was so nice to see so many people come out to support a great cause. 4) Kudos to BASICS for promoting this event so efficiently and not giving up even when times were tough.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story. How wonderful that Pinkberry stepped up to help the schools. However, big cheers for their staff that made it a pleasant experience for all.
Would be fabulous if other businesses follow their example. Lastly, the people that started this organization have proven that we should never "settle" on a situation. Thanks for sharing...

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Alex Dumpfree said...

It is really nice to know the support group of women who sold bakes to financially support music classes in school. Yes, music in the true sense unites the world under one roof. Music has one language and the power of music can heal ourselves along with time. The support groups, I must say, are doing a great job and in future, I would like to see more of them doing noble works for sustaining the performing arts.