When the going gets tough, the tough go out to dinner. At a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet, Yorktown teachers waited tables and donated their “tips” to a local food pantry.
At their second annual, Tip a Teacher Day, held at Traditions Restaurant 118 in Granite Springs, the teachers from the Yorktown Central School District donned wait staff attire, took orders, bussed tables and carried food to all of the patrons. The event, held on the Tuesday, Nov. 15 starting at 5 p.m., raised $2,612 in tips which was donated to the Yorktown Community Help (YCH) food pantry on Commerce Street in Yorktown Heights.
“We are always looking for ways to give back to our community,” said Sean Kennedy, president of the Yorktown Congress of Teachers Union. “Over 100 families locally use the food bank during the holiday season and we wanted to help.”
As a high school teacher and varsity baseball coach at Yorktown High School, Kennedy was touched by the support received from the community who came to dine that evening and donate generously to the cause. The event lasted from 5 p.m. until around 11 p.m.
Approximately 200 patrons attended that evening including parents, students, school board members, staff members and school administrators from the Yorktown Central School District as well as town judges.
“Last year we saw how successful it was for this charity event and we wanted to help again” said Michael Lubic, graduate of Yorktown High School and owner of Traditions Restaurant 118. “It is great to see the teachers from Yorktown donate their time. They really did an excellent job serving the customers.”
Janine Gibney, YCT officer and Mildred E. Strang Middle School teacher, who helped organize the event, was also touched by the generosity of others and values the connection between good nutrition and learning.
“As teachers, we know that kids can’t learn when they’re hungry,” Gibney said, “and parents can’t support education when they’re worried about putting food on the table.”
The YCH food pantry operates out of the Yorktown Community Center (YCC) and donates goods exclusively to families living in Yorktown. This non-profit, non-denominational organization was founded in the 1960’s to meet the needs of those living in the community.
“For the Thanksgiving holidays, the primary donor for food distribution is the Yorktown Central Schools,” said David Humphrey, board member of the Yorktown Community Help food pantry and executive assistant to Yorktown supervisor.
During other times of the year, various organizations including the Lakeland School District and St. Patrick’s Church donate goods. “The money given to us from the Tip A Teacher event helps us operate,” said Humphrey. He added that it also helps restock the shelves after most of the canned goods empty out during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Several teachers from the high school, middle school and elementary schools in the Yorktown Central School District had no experience waiting tables, but they volunteered anyway for this cause.
“The food pantry is a great asset to our community. We wanted to give back,” said Seth Altman, Yorktown High School social studies teacher and a participant at the event. “Plus, it sounded like fun.”
Altman, a novice to the restaurant business, re-filled water glasses, served bread, and carried plates of food to the dining tables. Other teachers served as hosts and hostesses greeting customers as they entered the restaurant.
Many of the students who attended were excited to see their teachers in a different light. “I thought it was a really creative idea,” said Dara Lillis, a senior at Yorktown High School who sat at a table with ten other friends. “It was great to see my teachers, even from the elementary school. Many of them were excited to see us as well.”
This is not the first time the teachers’ union has donated money to area programs. In addition to the Yorktown Community Help food pantry, Kennedy noted that the teachers in the Yorktown Central School District have raised over $10,000 to donate to the Maria Ferrara Children’s Hospital at the Westchester Medical Center and Support Connection, a nonprofit organization that offers support to people impacted by cancer. Every year, the teacher’s union also gives out over $5,500 in scholarships to seniors graduating from Yorktown High School.
Superintendent of Schools at the Yorktown Central School District, Dr. Ralph Napolitano, attended the event with other administrators to support the teachers in their effort to raise money for the local food pantry.
Dr. Napolitano described the event as “most impressive.”
“Our teacher servers are able to raise a significant amount of money for a cause that is very near and dear to our hearts- the Yorktown food pantry,” said Dr. Napolitano. “ I commend our teachers for their initiative, generosity and commitment. I thank our administrators, Board members, parents and students for embracing this cause too. What a wonderful way for all of us to serve our community.”
Kennedy was heartened by the hours of dedication the teachers from Yorktown gave to the community. He was impressed, but not surprised, by the generosity of the patrons who donated tips to the teachers for the food pantry.
“It’s everything that is right with this community,” said the union president. “Everyone pitched in to make it a success.”
Contributed by Michelle Silverman