What started as required community service last winter turned into a labor of love for bankers Rene Webster and Caroline Fallon.
Webster, a marketing executive with 1st United Bank in North Palm Beach, and Fallon, a commercial lender with the bank, have devoted hours of their free time raising money to support students and faculty at Lake Park Elementary School.
The Title I school on Third Street has 350 students, most of them from low-income homes.
The women, at first complying with provisions of the federal Community Reinvestment Act and then acting on their own, adopted two classes during the holiday season, supplying the students with shoes, fleece blankets, dolls, footballs, coloring books and crayons.
Later, they turned their attention to 21 fifth-grade students who were trying to come up with $750 each to travel to Washington, D.C., this spring for a safety-patrol trip.
“The school hasn’t sent a class to D.C. in about 10 years,” Webster said.
In five weeks, Webster, a Palm Beach Gardens resident, and Fallon, a North Palm Beach resident, raised more than $12,000 to help send the students to Washington. They leave May 21.
For most of the students, the trip will be their first outside Palm Beach County, Webster said.
“When these kids get to Lake Park Elementary, they’ve been to three places — Grandma’s, the food store and the laundromat,” she said. “So these children have never been on a plane, or in a hotel.”
Webster and Fallon continue to raise money for the school through a variety of initiatives, including garage sales, bake sales and a “Blessings in a Backpack” project begun locally by Benjamin School student Kaela Prolow.
The nonprofit organization, which provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program with a backpack of food to take home during the school year, feeds 62,000 children in 437 schools throughout the United States, Canada, Colombia and Haiti.
Every Thursday, Webster and Fallon pick up the backpacks assembled by Benjamin School students and deliver them to Lake Park Elementary, where they are distributed to 65 students in the school’s aftercare program.
“The packs have oatmeal, fruit bars, juices, crackers, Ramen noodles — things children can make,” Webster said.
WANT TO HELP?
Volunteers are needed at Lake Park Elementary School, as are donations for supplies and transportation. Rene Webster and Caroline Fallon, who are helping the school raise money to support students and teachers, also are looking for companies to adopt a class during the holidays.
For information, call 561-840-7751.