Hofmann: Homewood PTA celebrates centennial
By Maryellen Hofmann Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org January 17, 2013 4:10PM
A historical commemoration of the Homewood PTA’s 100 years is on display at Homewood Public Library through January. | Supplied Photo
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:17AM
The Homewood Parent-Teacher Association, founded in 1913 by O.T. Bright, proudly kicks off its 100th year in operation this month.
The local advocacy group is part of a nationwide network of members who work on behalf of children and youth.
According to Homewood PTA historian Sue Ryan, enrollment in the public school district was 300 in 1913. Today, it is 1,875. Enrollment peaked at 3,100 during the 1968-69 school year.
Anyone who has had children in Homewood School District 153 schools — and many who haven’t — can attest to the impact of the Homewood PTA and its volunteers on the community. From raising funds for school programs and advocating for children to influencing legislation, members have worked tirelessly for 100 years.
Through the years, funding for programs has changed, but the organization’s mission “to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children” has remained constant.
From 1944 to 1993, the PTA operated a thrift shop to fund its programs. Now the majority of the PTA’s funding comes from the Market Day fundraising program, the Market Day gift sale and Scholastic book fairs.
Betty Baker, a Homewood resident and past president of the Homewood PTA, remembers the thrift shop days well. She said the concept came from the mentality of the depression — “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
The resale shop not only provided funds for PTA-sponsored programs but was used to help local families who had fallen on hard times. Baker said she recalls helping residents during such things as home fires and other dire circumstances when people lost virtually everything.
Baker served in the late 1980s at a time when issues like school funding and safety were not talked about nearly to the degree they are today. She described simpler times when the Homewood PTA “funded special add-ons like playground equipment and enrichment programs.”
Today, Baker said PTA members are more likely to be lobbying in Springfield. She also said societal changes have had an impact on the role of PTA, as well.
“We had a waiting list of people who wanted to be room mothers in their child’s classroom,” Baker said.
Now, the demands of the workplace make it difficult for parents to volunteer during the school day.
One thing that stands out in Baker’s mind during her tenure is the question of whether the Homewood PTA would continue to maintain its ties with the national organization.
“A lot PTAs were becoming PTOs (Parent Teacher Organization),” Baker said.
Baker said she remembers spirited discussion about whether Homewood should keep its resources locally. In the end, the group agreed that there was value in being part of a larger organization.
“Concern beyond Homewood won out,” Baker said.
Gayla Boomer served as Homewood PTA president from 1993 to 1995. She cited as her proudest moment the passage of the 1992 school referendum.
Boomer said she was gratified “seeing the community come together on behalf of the kids and having the hard work of all the volunteers acknowledged.”
Years later, while serving as president of the Illinois PTA from 2003 to 2005, Boomer recalled seeing the Homewood Children’s Choir perform at a statewide convention. She said those children were born around the time the 1992 referendum was passed and found it gratifying to see the results of Homewood PTA’s efforts to keep such programs as choir.
“Not everybody gets to see the benefits of their work down the road,” Boomer said.
Boomer said serving at the state level made her appreciate “how good we have it in Homewood,” and that it made her more determined to see other children benefit from a strong PTA.
A historical commemoration of the Homewood PTA’s 100 years is on display at Homewood Public Library through January.