Many local parents cite Wilson Preschool, part of the Santa Clara Unified School District, as the place where their children made their first friends, first learned to share with others and first entered a classroom. The parent participation preschool, which collects tuition from attending families, opened in September 1981. Fast forward 30 years. In 2011, Friends of Wilson Preschool (FOWP) was founded as a charitable organization. Years ago, when California faced budget challenges, nine volunteers congregated on a monthly basis to discuss how to best support the preschool.
“California had to make some cuts all over the state in public education and this was going on even before 2011,” says Barbara Sullivan, retired Wilson Preschool supervisor and founder of FOWP. “When we started working on organizing Friends of Wilson, there was a recession. That was our first challenge and what first spurred us to start looking for fundraising ways to supplement the funding we received.”
As founder, Sullivan was known for motivating FOWP’s volunteers, comprising of parents, alumni and community members and a teacher, who is the staff representative. After members plowed through a bit of paperwork, the organization was officially recognized as a 501(c)3 organization in 2013. This year, the organization was also the lucky recipient of a $3,000 Mission City Community Fund grant.
“We have four meetings a year,” Sullivan says. “No one is paid in our organization. Everyone’s a volunteer. We host our once-a-year fundraiser called the Giraffle, named after the giraffe. It’s a combination of a silent auction and family story night. It’s a fundraiser for the school but also a nice community event. Our goal this fall is to start planning for the Giraffle. We’re going to introduce the preschool families to the organization so they’ll know what we’re doing. And then we’ll let them know about plans for the Giraffle, and encourage them to participate, either by soliciting prizes for the silent auction or helping with the set up or clean up. Friends of Wilson is always happy to accept donations.”
According to Sullivan, money raised has gone toward guest speakers, construction of new playhouses, development of all three play yards, classroom materials and supplies and general operating costs of the preschool.