By Taylor Burgess
Though the Homewood City Schools Foundation’s April 3 community dinner, Homewood Grown, is primarily a fundraiser for Homewood schools, Foundation Director Amy McRae sees it as more.
The fundraising event, which will be held on the Terrace in SOHO Square in downtown Homewood, will celebrate the community and its schools in several ways, McRae said.
“There wasn’t an opportunity, or we weren’t aware of one, where we could all get together and just be together as a community and celebrate our schools,” McRae said. “That’s what we were really looking for–a time to have a dinner and really celebrate what our community is.”
The Foundation itself exists for both of these purposes–to celebrate the Homewood community and school system and to raise money so they can remain strong, McRae said.
The Homewood school system includes Shades Cahaba Elementary School, Edgewood Elementary School, Hall-Kent Elementary School, Homewood Middle School and Homewood High School, all of which receive benefits from the Foundation.
The Homewood Grown dinner will mark the 20th anniversary of the Foundation, which raises significant funds for Homewood City Schools. In 2013 alone, it raised $32,000 in grants funds for school programs and $25,000 for school libraries.
Also in 2013, the Foundation gathered the initial fees for 10 Homewood teachers to pursue National Board Certification and held a PSAT prep course for 16 of the top-scoring high school juniors in Homewood schools.
This year, the inaugural Homewood Grown event is the Foundation’s primary means of raising funds for these and other initiatives, event chairman Rachel Stone said.
The fundraiser grew out of a past Foundation project.
“For years, we had hosted what we called Showcase,” Stone said. “All the schools would come together at the (Homewood) Middle School and showcase different things the students had done throughout the year.”
Though initially a platform for the Foundation to show its care for the Homewood community, Showcase grew too large, Stone said.
“The message of the Foundation was not quite as clear as we wanted it to be at that event,” Stone said. “So we thought, what can we do to inform people, to celebrate Homewood, the Foundation and the schools and raise money for what is already a great school system?”
At the community dinner, a teacher from each of the five Homewood City Schools will receive the Teacher Impact Award for his or her work in the lives of Homewood students.
“We asked parents, students and other teachers to nominate faculty that they feel have made a difference in the classroom,” McRae said. “Each teacher gets a $500 stipend for professional development and projects. It’s a way for us to recognize the great faculty we have in Homewood, which is why we’re all proud to be Homewood grown.”
Additionally, one Homewood High School senior will receive the 2014 Dr. Jodi Newton Scholarship.
“It’s a one-time, $1,000 scholarship, just for their first year of college,” Jill Kimbrell, Foundation board president, said. “We look at people going into public service fields. It’s in honor of Dr. Newton, the former Homewood City Schools superintendent. Her mission was community service and leadership in the community. We look for those traits in the student who gets the award.”
During the evening, a special video of those who have benefited from their time in Homewood City Schools will be shown. This includes Aaron Ernest, a former wide receiver on Homewood High School’s football team who’s now a scholarship track athlete at Louisiana State University.
The Foundation believes Ernest to be an excellent example of what it means to be Homewood grown, Superintendent Bill Cleveland said.
“The video will go into some details about who impacted him and played a major role in the success that he continues to enjoy,” Cleveland said. “The message we’ve tried to capture here is what the system meant to these people, and it will be an important portion of that night.”
Food at the event will be provided by Café Dupont, Kimbrell said.
Chris Dupont, Café Dupont chef and owner, has a child who is a student at Edgewood Elementary, according to Kimbrell.
Many local Homewood and Birmingham businesses make up the event’s corporate sponsors, Kimbrell said.
Event organizers said they are enthusiastic about the support the event has received.
“We were really hopeful that the community would embrace the event, and that has happened, very much so,” Kimbrell said.
Anticipating a successful event due to this support, Foundation members said they are hopeful about the future.
“We think this is a great opportunity to get people together,” McRae said. “We hope that will continue and that people will attend the event and plan to attend every year. Then alumni will come back to the event—students now will be coming back, hopefully with their kids.”
The Foundation believes the spirit of the event goes beyond just Homewood City Schools, Kimbrell said.
“The ‘Homewood Grown’ theme can take on a lot of meanings. And that can be going through the school system or being a part of a community, whatever that might be,” Kimbrell said. “It’s a great theme to pull the whole community together.”
Tickets to Homewood Grown are $100 per person and $1,000 for a table of 10. Tickets are available by phone from the Homewood City Schools Foundation at 706-8870 or online at homewoodgrown.eventbrite.com. The Foundation is currently almost sold out of tickets for the event, organizers said.
For more information about the Homewood City Schools Foundation, visit homewoodcityschoolsfoundation.com.