Each week the gymnasium at Danbury Catholic School fills with kids. All kinds of kids. Kids looking to get exercise during PE, kids getting rid of energy on a rainy-day recess. Sometimes kids getting ready for a program.
Last week the kids were joined by plants. All kinds of plants. Flowers, vegetables, grasses, even bushes.
The fourth annual plant sales came to its finale last week. For a couple months the students at Danbury Catholic were encouraged to sell plants as a fundraiser. The plants were delivered last Thursday, and a flurry of volunteers turned tables lined with colorful tablecloths into tables completely covered with plants.
"It is amazing once all the plants are in the gym to see what all the work was for and how beautiful everything looks," commented Julie Hamann, one of the plant sales committee members. "The bleachers are wall-to-wall hanging baskets and planters. They always look gorgeous, but I believe this year was the best the baskets and patio planters have ever looked.
"Every year the plant sales have grown and we are thrilled this year was no exception," added Hamann.
So, how does a school of just over 50 students sell over 4,000 plants, 161 hanging baskets, 115 patio planters, and 160 large planters? Incentives may be part of the motivation.
"The first goal was to sell $20,000 in plants and seeds," said Hamann. "If the kids reached that goal, they would earn a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. After three weeks, they had reached that goal and we announced they were going to the zoo. But we also had a new goal -$30,000 in retail sales. If they reached that goal, we would get a charter bus to take them to the zoo. They far exceeded that goal, and we have a bus coming to take them to the zoo on May 19th."
This trip to the zoo could have a large price tag included, but the school will not be seeing the cost of the zoo admission or the charter bus. Thanks to generous donors, the cost of the bus and the zoo admission is being generously covered by supporters of the school.
While getting to skip an entire day of school and riding in a fancy bus is a nice incentive, the students were offered weekly incentives to keep selling plants.
"Every week during sales the students earn prizes, either a candy bar or a pop, for selling plants," added Hamann. "It was so much fun to go into school and see how excited they were to tell me how many orders they got or how many plants they sold."
Let's go back to the gym full of thousands of greenery. From the start of the plant pick up event when students set up multiple tables on Wednesday to the end of the plant pick up when the final tables are put away on Friday, over 45 volunteers helped at the event. Danbury Catholic students, parents and grandparents of the students, and adults who did not have kids, grandkids, or even nieces or nephews spent time at the event.
"There were so many volunteers that took the time out of their busy schedules to help with this Spring fundraiser," commented Janelle Clausen, committee member. "The volunteers started with Danbury Catholic students setting up tables on Wednesday, and volunteers coming in and placing table coverings on tables and posting signs on tables where plants and flowers were to be set. Trucks of plants arrived the next day and phone calls and text messages were made to the volunteers asked to help unload on a moment's notice. These volunteers worked together as a team. We couldn't do it without all the help. More volunteers came in to place popsicle sticks in each plant so when people pick up their orders the check out would go smoother."
"The kids were such a big help during plant sale days. What troopers they were," added Clausen.
One of the families collecting their orders for delivery on Thursday was the Nicole and Sean Shea family of Danbury. The family, including fifth grader Mandy and second grader Trenten sold over $5,000 in plants and seeds, the most in the school.
"I liked unloading and setting up all the flowers for the plant sales," said Mandy. She and her fellow fifth and sixth graders spent Thursday morning helping set up the gym. "I am excited to see the new parts of the zoo. My favorite part of the zoo is the Kingdom of the Night."
"It took half a day to deliver the plants," said Trenten who is also excited about the trip to the zoo.
Also collecting many, many plants on Thursday was the Tracy and Brandon Johnson family of Ida Grove. They also were mega-sellers, collecting over $4,000 in sales. Their kids, Haley who is in third grade and Oscar who is in kindergarten had differing time frames to deliver their sales.
"Selling plants was fun," said Haley. "It took us two days to deliver all the plants we sold. I liked delivering cause we got to see all our friends. But at one house I got stung by a wasp and that wasn't fun."
Oscar marked the delivery time in minutes, many minutes.
"I liked delivering plants with my grandma and my mom," said Oscar. "It took us 800 and a 1,000 minutes to deliver plants."
"God blessed us with the perfect day for plant sales, full of sunshine and no wind," added DC kindergarten teacher and committee member Michelle Drees. Prior to Thursday afternoon, the week had been filled with rain and excess wind.
Friday morning and mid-afternoon were dedicated to all customers who were personally picking up their own plants and to the families who were picking up the remainder of their deliveries. Along with the pre-paid plants were tables filled with extra plants for purchasing that day. While not all plants were offered in this section, there was a large variety from which to choose. There were also 29 hanging baskets and 44 planters of differing sizes, ready for Mother's Day. Always a hit, the baskets proved they were still in demand.
"The hanging baskets were a popular hit again, selling out amazingly fast Friday morning," exclaimed Drees. The doors Friday opened at 7:00, and people were waiting for that magical time. By 7:20, the hanging baskets were all claimed. The rest of the planters were also purchased by mid-afternoon.
"The last day of plant sales is a biggy," added Clausen. "As well as the prepaid orders, the Cash and Carry table is open. There is such an assortment of plants and flowers along with hanging baskets and planters. It's amazing how people come out and support this Spring Fundraiser for Danbury Catholic School."
This school project included an idea with turned into a community service project.
"This year, Fr. Bill McCarthy had an idea to order extra hanging baskets and deliver them to some of our community shut-ins as a gift from the school kids," said Hamann. "The Danbury St. Mary's Youth Group and another generous donor offered to cover the cost of the hanging baskets. Eleven floral baskets were delivered with cards from the students and youth group, including one each to Maple Heights Nursing Home in Mapleton and Willow Dale Nursing Home in Battle Creek. Danbury Catholic students have not been able to visit the nursing home residents since Covid started."
Friday afternoon, during the plant pick up break, some of these baskets were delivered by Danbury Catholic students. Others were delivered by people who were picking up other plants purchased by the person also on the hanging basket gift list or by people who loved the idea and wanted to help out.
"People thank us for all the work we put into this unique fun fundraiser, but the real thanks goes to the customers who graciously order plants or make a donation when our students knock on their door. We hope they think of our students when they look at their blooming plants," concluded Hamann.