WEST HARTFORD — The West Hartford Public Schools Foundation is hosting its biggest fundraiser of the year.

The nonprofit, which provides grants to educators in West Hartford, raised more than $40,000 at West Hartford’s Cookin’ Up Something New fundraiser last year. The fundraiser offers gift baskets of donated local items to the first 125 donors who pledge $100 or more.

The fundraiser was a change from the usual in-person event they held before the pandemic.

“West Hartford’s Cookin’, in its in-person event version, has always been our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Deena Samberg-Shefsky, co-chair of the foundation. “Not being able to have it in person, we really needed to be able to find a new way to raise these funds. It’s the bulk of our money that we allocate to our grants.


There was some apprehension that a move away from an in-person event would result in fewer donations. The foundation discovered last year that this was not the case. They hope this version of the fundraiser will help them reach their new goal of providing educators with two rounds of grants each school year, instead of just one.

“With the decision to do a two-grant cycle, we anticipate there may be an increase in grant applications,” Samberg-Shefsky said. “We want to make sure we have the funds to be able to support the grant applications we receive.”

Samberg-Shefsky said they would definitely like to bring the event back in person very soon, but said this new fundraiser has allowed them to reach new donors in the meantime.

“It was nice to bring the community together and give people the opportunity to mingle and hear our message and our story,” she said. “We are very grateful to the community for continuing to support us despite the fact that we cannot host an in-person event. Some people in the past who have not been able to attend the event have participated in this fundraiser, perhaps donors that we had not had before.

The 125 gift baskets they will be handing out consist of local items that have been donated to the non-profit organization, which means that all the money they receive goes directly to grant distribution. Donations came from companies such as Bridgewater Chocolate, Chick-fil-A, Little Owls Bakery, Moscarillo’s and Sardilli Produce & Dairy. Two “grand prize” baskets will also be randomly awarded. One includes restaurant gift cards worth $200 and the other offers a one-night stay at the Delamar Hotel.

“It’s really nice to see the community continue to support us like they have in the past,” Samberg-Shefsky said. “Because really, as much as we are a grantmaking agency, we are a fundraising agency. If we don’t raise the funds, we have no money to distribute.

And the money will be distributed again soon. The current grant cycle ends May 1, and the money will be awarded to educators in June, which they will then use for grant programs for the first half of the next school year. Another round of grants will begin in December, the nonprofit said, which is unusual for them.

“This is the first year that we’ve offered two rounds of grants,” Samberg-Shefsky said. “Having a second cycle taking place during the current year gives teachers a flexibility that we didn’t have before. They are able to collaborate with their larger partners and other schools and meet the special needs of their students at that time. We did this with teacher feedback.

Collaboration is one of foundations favorite things to see in grants, and they also love when a grant morphs into a district-wide initiative, as was the case with an educator music grant. from King Philip Middle School.

“It changed their music program by enhancing what they had in digital opportunities,” Samberg-Shefsky said. “As a result of this, the district funded a similar program at Bristow Middle School and Sedgwick Middle School. This single grant had an impact on all three schools. It’s really exciting when we see this happen. It makes a difference for everyone.

Fundraising will run until April 23. Donations can be made on the foundation’s website at fwhps.org.

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