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Ocean City Education Foundation to Host Fundraiser

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Board of Education member Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes holds tickets for the OCEF fundraising event on Oct. 29. (Photo courtesy of OCEF)

By MADDY VITALE

The Ocean City Education Foundation (OCEF) is about a community coming together to help students and teachers provide additional support that may not be in the school’s budget.

From mini-grants to the newest and perhaps most vital endeavor — support for mental health programs within the school district — the OCEF has one focus in mind: helping students and educators.

“Our main focus over the last few years has been on mental health wellness initiatives, in addition to the teacher mini-grants,” Jennifer Shirk, president of OCEF, said Wednesday.

OCEF will host the 4th Annual Red and White Night Social at Josie Kelly’s Public House in Somers Point on Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. The event will raise funds to support mental health programs, scholarships, and items that teachers may need throughout the school year in the way of mini-grants, Shirk noted.

The past two fundraisers were held at Josie Kelly’s and were successful, Shirk said.

“There will be a DJ, fantastic food, auction baskets, and red and white drink specials all night,” she said. “We will also be raffling off a chance to win $2,000.”

Tickets can only be purchased for $35 online on the OCEF website at OCNJEF.com.

The Ocean City New Jersey Education Foundation members donate $10,000 to the Intermediate School’s wellness center in January 2020.

In 2020, OCEF helped fund the Intermediate School Wellness Center.

Now, the group is looking to fund outdoor wellness centers in all three schools.

“The Primary School will most likely be first in order of projects to be done,” Shirk pointed out. “We’re hoping it will be a great area for story times, outdoor learning, or just a nice place to take a structured mental health break for those students.”

OCEF Treasurer Aimee Schultz added, “Reports in the U.S confirm that mental health continues to get worse, which is why the outdoor wellness spaces are going to be a huge focus for us this school year.”

One of the ways that OCEF is able to provide money to the school district is through fundraisers, including the two socials held in the fall and spring.

But amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the events were not held.

Instead, OCEF raised funds through virtual events and assisted with providing items that were needed during the pandemic.

“We purchased Red Raider mask lanyards for all students and teachers in the school district to make things a little easier with keeping masks clean and also preventing students from losing their masks,” Shirk said.

OCEF members and state Assemblyman Antwan McClellan during the 2019 social.

With the loosening of pandemic restrictions and more people becoming vaccinated, Shirk said OCEF is able to host the 4th annual fundraiser.

“We are aggressive with our goals, but they’re ones we are very proud of and feel most passionately about, which is why we are hoping the community will join in with our latest fundraising efforts,” Shirk explained.

Heather James, OCEF secretary, said the non-profit is grateful for the community of businesses that give each year.

“We are very appreciative of all of our sponsors and we think it is important that they are recognized for their support and donations,” James said.

And with a new school year underway comes some additions to OCEF to expand the organization and help more students and educators.

Anyone interested in becoming an OCEF member may do so with a donation of just $20.

That donation allows a member access to VIP emails and an opportunity to serve on committees.

In addition, students of members will automatically be eligible for the organization’s community scholarship as well.

“We’re hoping this will also raise money, so we can offer more senior scholarships,” Shirk said. “Teachers who become members for a donation of $10 will be eligible for the teacher mini-grants that we will award in the spring.”

Ocean City Education Foundation members Heather James, left, and Jennifer Shirk, during a 2019 Chamber of Commerce open house.

Another new addition is the Activity Access Fund, which is a fund or grant that OCEF can award to a student who is unable to participate in a sport or other after-school activity due to cost.

“I was fortunate that my daughter ran cross country when she was in high school,” Shirk noted. “All I had to do was make sure that she had a good pair of running shoes.”

She continued, “But I know that there are other sports that require equipment or even protective gear, which can really add up in cost.”

OCEF members want all students who would like to be involved in school activities to be able to do so regardless of cost, she added.

A student or caregiver can apply directly for the fund. A teacher or guidance counselor also may apply on behalf of the student.

Member signups and the application for the Activity Access Fund can be found on the Ocean City Education Foundation website: OCNJEF.com

Some OCNJEF grant recipients pose for a photo in the spring of 2019 at the Ocean City Primary School.