No matter what we do, what we do matters.
We all know stay-at-home Moms are the unsung heroes of the summer, but so many Moms give tirelessly to their schools and communities during the day while their kids are at school throughout the academic year too. Meet Jen Kane. Jen is a volunteer parent at St. Joseph School in Downers Grove, IL where her two daughters attend. Jen is one of the many parents who are a constant source of help and support behind the scenes to keep the school day and special events on track and running smoothly. All schools depend on parent volunteers, and Jen has devoted time, energy and talents for the betterment of the school community.
G: You volunteer for a lot of things at the school. You are there for the day to day stuff, like hot-lunch, as well as the big events, like this year’s Mardi Gras Fundraiser. How do you juggle it all?
J: The day to day stuff is fun. It’s not that big of a deal to be here to help out with hot lunch and that kind of thing. I get to see the kids, it’s not that stressful. But it’s the bigger events, that sometimes require more.
G: As a parent at the school, it’s often hard to recognize the volunteer parents. I buy hot lunch for my kids, but I don’t stop and think about the parents that give up their time to be there to make sure the kids all get their meals delivered each week. You could be doing anything during that time while the kids are at school, getting caught up on your own life, doing your own thing, and there you are, showing up each week making sure that the job gets done.
J: As volunteers, we know that some parents appreciate it. But because you don’t get a paycheck, sometimes it does feel like it’s time away from things that should be getting done at home or elsewhere. But as a Mom, it’s worth it to be able to see what’s going on during the day. I know all of the kids because I spend so much time here helping out.
G: That’s a good point that being there helps to bridge a gap between school and home while your kids are little. Your kids probably won’t know to appreciate the fact that you are doing that until they are Moms.
J: I hope they appreciate it one day!
G: You have worn so many different hats over the years in helping out. Some weeks it seems like you are here so much that it could add up to the time that you could be at a part-time job. Does that sound about right in terms of the time commitment you put in throughout the year?
J: Some weeks for sure. Especially when you add it all up. Girl scouts, hot lunch. Special events. But it provides me with a flexibility to get involved, while still knowing if I had a sick kid, or I couldn’t make it in one day, it would be okay. It gives me a sense of purpose and helps me to feel appreciated somewhere, and for now, I am happy being involved in this way.
G: You are stepping in because someone has to do it. And you are choosing to answer that call. It has been neat to see over the years how it has allowed you to express the many talents that you have while at the same time, filling in a need at our kids’ school. For example, your creativity really shines when you do things like build the props for this year’s gala in your basement.
J: It’s fun. It’s a team effort. We get to be together as a group of Moms and each of us has a different way we contribute. Some of us have the creative ideas, and some of us figure out how to execute them, whether it’s for the Father Daughter dance, class parties or the fundraising events. It’s just fun and creative. That’s the stuff I love. It’s when I get emails about other stuff that are harder to deal with. When I get an angry email about something every once in awhile and I realize that the person writing it must think that I get a paycheck. That they don’t realize I am a volunteer and to be a little more respectful with how they handle whatever they are emailing me about.
G: Yeah, you take some hits. But really the volunteer parents are the unsung heroes of this school. You give up so much time, and sometimes it’s on things that we would forget to stop and acknowledge, like building props for an event.
J: I agree. The weeks for events like the fundraiser we put in a lot of time. Getting together sometimes until midnight for a week or two to pull it together, and yeah, people don’t even realize the time we are putting in.
G: So what are all of the ways you have been involved thus far?
J: Whenever there is a job to do, and I can do it, I go. Over the years I have been a Girl Scout leader, a hot lunch coordinator. I have helped out at class parties. Stuff that comes up in the classroom and they need volunteers. Helping to reorganize and redo the library. Coaching. At least 40-50- hours so far on the Gala, and I am working the whole day of the event. So all in for that one event, it will be 50-70 hours of time I have put in. And then a Friday night helping out decorating at the Father Daughter Event this year. Most parents help where they can. It’s a great community that way.
G: You obviously have such a can-do, helping out when there is a need, type of spirit. What inspires you or motivates you?
J: I honestly don’t know. I just do it. I just know someone has to do it. Sometimes it’s things I don’t necessarily want to do, but it’s for my kids, so I do it. I want to see them have fun, and be with their friends and be a part of things. It just works for me to be involved right now in this way. At some point I will probably back out in some ways and do new things. As they get older, I may move on to something else and I will feel I have done my part. Everything has it’s time and when they are little, you get involved. When they get older, Moms do things more behind the scenes. It’s a season. And I am glad to have been involved and helped out in this way.