Meredith School to host fundraiser at IATSE Ballroom

A Queen Village school will hold an auction to counter likely budget cuts. 

By Joseph Myers

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William M. Meredith School kindergarteners are among the 18 classes that will offer their handmade crafts, such as tree drawings surrounded by their pictures, at Saturday’s auction. 

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Jenna Makuen appreciates the entire learning experience when she fraternizes with her second-grade peers and authority figures at William M. Meredith School, 725 S. Fifth St. The vivacious girl enjoys art, but as the School District of Philadelphia contends with consistent debt, her creative pursuits soon could dry up. 

To try to prevent the loss of her interest and other ambitions, her Queen Village institution’s Home and School Association will hold its seventh annual auction Saturday night at The IATSE Ballroom, 2401 S. Swanson St. 

“I believe Meredith is a very good school that is trying to move to be a great school, but without more resources, we’re going to struggle to do that,” Principal Cindy Farlino said Monday. “We’re in such a predicament now that parent community involvement, which should be for deepening and enriching our site, has become something we rely on to fulfill daily operations here.”

The fifth-year leader and other locations’ heads recently met with district Chief Financial Officer Matthew E. Stanski, and learned their educational havens could have to function on a miniscule budget, as the overseer attempts to dwindle a deficit that a report notes could amount to $1.35 billion over the next five years. That news has colored this year’s auction with a touch of dismay, a distant cry from its predecessors at the ballroom; the Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St.; the Mummers Museum, 1100 S. Second St.; and the Waterfall Room, 2015 S. Water St.

“We started out looking to enhance classes and our identity,” committee co-chair Donielle Calabrese, the mother of fifth-grader Natalie, said of the gatherings, whose proceeds have allowed them to secure additional time for the school nurse, revamp their auditorium’s sound system, purchase laptop carts and develop a diversity curriculum with an anti-bullying component. “Now we’re galvanizing to give thanks to our dedicated principal and teachers, who love and care for our children.”

Farlino and her staff help to instruct 530 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade, and the 18 classrooms each have a role in prepping for Saturday, with handmade crafts and themed baskets among the auction items. For Jenna, engrossed in her first full year at Meredith following her family’s move from Seattle last winter, the experience proved productive and perhaps prophetic.

“Our craft project was making blackboards to explain what we want to be when we’re older,” the resident of the 700 block of Fitzwater Street, whose mother, Rebecca, aids Calabrese as a committee presence, said, adding that she chose “veterinarian” as a vocation. “I have fun with everything I do here, so it’s good to help.”

The enthused youngster is hoping her mom can win a babysitting offer that her teacher, Serena Kuney, has included among the night’s choices.

“That should be really neat,” she said as her mother vowed to make a valiant attempt.

Prior to the budget meeting, Farlino, Calabrese and Makuen had hoped to endow the fifth through eighth grades with iPads and to soundproof their gymnasium. With the bleak financial situation, though, this weekend’s event instead will center on sustenance over extravagance.

“We’re really hoping for a fantastic turnout,” Calabrese, a Packer Park resident, said of the celebration, which will include a silent and live auction with a professional auctioneer, a Meredith first.

As proof of Farlino’s belief that great families help her spot to excel, a pair of parents will give the night more novelty with a “Why We Love Meredith” video presentation just before the live auction. Jim Donovan, holder of 13 Emmy Awards for consumer reporting, will handle the master of ceremony duties, and DJ Johnny Looch, of the 700 block of South 10th Street, will show his pride as a Meredith parent by spinning tunes.

“Through sheer willpower they came,” Makuen said of how she and her peers landed more than 200 donors for the occasion at the Whitman destination. “We went through many talks on securing backers, and most of the time we isolated neighborhoods for help.”

Their outreach has resulted in a diverse set of opportunities, including a summer vacation at a Cape Hatteras beach house; a VIP tour of the United States Capitol; a private makeup class at Neiman Marcus; floor seats to see the 76ers; a helmet adorned with the Flyers’ signatures; cooking classes; and gift cards to museums, restaurants and theaters. Along with the professional sports franchises, South Philly will have ample representation among the benefactors.

“We’re at a point where we may need even more onsite support from our parents,” Farlino said, citing having to enlist parents as welcome desk attendants, “so whatever we can generate from the auction not to overburden them is going to be much appreciated.”

Farlino’s fifth graders, including Emma Bertolino, Natalie and her cousin, Reno Dagostino, placed 3-D images on blocks for their auction crafts, painting moons, rainbows, stars and suns. The three children have told their families they want for them to win “the fun stuff,” like craft classes, experiences with their teachers and the chance to be principal for a day.

“We like helping our school however we can,” Emma, of the 1200 block of Dickinson Street, said.

“Your money will pay off in helping us to be strong,” Natalie added.

Reno is seeing the evening as a chance for adults to bond and band together for Meredith’s survival.

“We want your presence,” the Packer Park dweller said. “Your money would be nice, too.”

For tickets, call 215-351-7360, or visit

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

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