OUR SCHOOLS:  Sanchez School’s Champion, the Glastonbury Rotary Club Earns Distinguished Friend of Education Award

OUR SCHOOLS: Sanchez School’s Champion, the Glastonbury Rotary Club Earns Distinguished Friend of Education Award

When octogenarian Glastonbury farmer, Bill Dufford visits Sanchez School, an elementary school in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, he is greeted by many students at once in an eager cacophony, “Mr. Dufford!  Mr. Dufford!  Mr. Dufford!”  The spry retiree who can still bound up the school’s stairs to the 3rd floor music room, has been building a tight, mutually beneficial relationship with the school, its teachers, administrators, and students for three years now.

Mr. Dufford is part of a small group of Rotarians from the Glastonbury club who discovered in 2014, during a backpack donation drive, the virtues of going into the school, spending time with the students and building relationships while they are supporting projects and programs; but more, these relationships that help sustain the school give back much more in emotional currency to the Rotary Club members themselves.

Craig Wellman, Donna Finocchiaro, Richard Rapp, and Bill Dufford lead the Glastonbury Rotary Club (GRC) in its support of Sanchez School.  Over the past three years, they have organized donations of musical instruments (recorders, drums, and even a grand piano,) to the once-defunct music program. Now flush with instruments, the school reinstated the music program and has hired music teacher, Tim Bojanowski, pictured above second from left, with the GRC members and students.

They give where they can, where it helps:  bus transportation, art supplies for students’ hand-made holiday gifts, wrapping paper, field trips, school uniforms, and more. Providing more than just donations, the four Sanchez champions are present at school picnics, holiday concerts, family days, and remain “on-call” for any needs that may arise.  Recently they helped the school assemble the “pillars of character” cardboard pillars portraying inspirational words that are seen throughout the hallways of the school.  It is this omnipresence in the school that is most precious to the Rotarians.

The “pillars of character” from the Glastonbury Rotary Club at Sanchez School (left to right) Craig Wellman, Donna Finocchiaro, Bill Dufford, and Richard Rapp.

Richard Rapp, a senior vice-president of a wealth management group and financial advisor, describes their experience, “This is not charity.  We are building relationships.”

The power of these relationships earned the Glastonbury Rotary Club a Distinguished Friend of Education Award from the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) on March 27th.  In her nomination letter to the CAS, Sanchez School principal, Azra Redzic describes more of the group’s generous works, “Given the depth and breadth of the overall contribution that the Glastonbury Rotary Club has made to Sanchez School over the years, it is difficult to capture it all in a simple letter.  Suffice it to say that our students have benefited in immeasurable ways. They have had educational experiences that they never would have had otherwise; they have been given clothing, food, and gifts for family members; they have gone on field trips that would never have happened had not the GRC offered to pay for busing expenses which they have done time and time again.  This club has touched the educational lives of our students in music, art, physical education, and in countless classroom activities that have spurned out of experiences generously offered by club members.  In reading supplemental letters from our art, music, and physical education teachers, it is our hope that you get an even greater appreciation for what the Glastonbury Rotary Club has meant to Sanchez School.”

Mr. Dufford hits the skins.

The Rotary Club was established in 1904 and its first project was the construction of public restrooms outside of court buildings where none had existed before.  Their mission is to be where neighbors, friends, and problem-solvers share ideas, join leaders, and take action to create lasting change.

When federal, state, and city governments cannot fully support educational needs, it falls upon philanthropists to fill in the crucial gaps.  The Glastonbury Rotary Club is there for Sanchez School in that role: creating a new and larger community by building relationships between donors and beneficiaries, and breaking down walls between suburbanites and our capital city.  Where city officials may fail in getting financial assistance from the suburban towns surrounding the city, building real relationships within schools by essentially adopting a school is a model that works.  The Glastonbury Rotary Club has a beautiful platform upon which to promote this practice of “adopting” a school in the very way that they have so lovingly adopted Sanchez School.