New Beach School Desks

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Local Business Raises Funds

The Beach Elementary School has a long-time need to replace its outdated school desks, and once she learned about this, a local gym owner took it upon herself to provide the funds necessary to purchase brand new desks for each and every pupil!

“I am a member of the Beach Kids Foundation” related Tiffany Kersten, the 22-year owner and operator of Hammerhead Beach Gym at 3051 Estero Boulevard. “Fran Myers of the Red Coconut RV Park, who helped found the BKF, asked me to join. Being a small business owner, I did not know how much time I would have to commit to it, but like many people on this island, I love the Beach School, as it does such an outstanding job in taking care of our children, and many of them need so much because most of the parents work in the service industries that keep our tourism economy humming, so I just had to serve, and it turns out I am having a great time.”

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Beach School Principal Karen Manzi accepts a check for new desks from Tiffany Kersten (left) and Linda Beasley (right).

Tiffany learned about the school desks issue while at a Beach Kids Foundation meeting. “I saw a list of school needs, and right around this time, everyone else was working on the Foundation holiday activities to benefit the kids, like preparing for the annual fundraiser at the DiamondHead Resort & Spa in December and shopping for Christmas gifts for the children we distribute with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, so I checked out that list to see what I could do, came across school desks, and thought, ‘I can take that on!’”

Her initial goal was to raise enough to buy new desks for two classrooms, figuring that she would need roughly $3,800 so Tiffany put out the word to her Hammerhead Gym members for help, “and donations started rolling in and kept up! Before you knew it, in just a couple of months, we had enough for new desks for the entire school, raising $9,840! Contributions ranged from $10 to $2,000, with the larger ones coming from other local business owners. Many did not just make a personal contribution, but went to their friends and said, ‘I am giving this much; please match it,’ and they did. What is amazing is that, to my knowledge, not one single member has kids or even grandkids in Beach School, although several are former Beach School kids, as are a few of my coworkers, but the school’s reputation is so excellent that everyone wanted to be a part of this, as it is such a great school. I am so proud of their accomplishment and generosity!”

Badly Needed Desks

When contemplating on the how much the school needs new student desks, “I can answer that in one word,” said Principal Karen Manzi: “Badly! The ones we have now have cracks in the feet and many have holes, and they are just worn out. I don’t know exactly how long these desks have been here, because I am only in my second year at Beach School, but I can safely say they have been here a very long time; probably for decades.”

Principal Karen related, “the Beach Kids Foundation is always so great to the school. Last year they reached out to us and asked our pressing needs, and I expressed that the school and kids could really benefit from some new school desks, and they said they would see what they could do. I heard back from them a month or so later that Tiffany from Hammerhead Gym said she could take on that project. Our initial hope was that they could replace the desks in one or two classrooms this year, then maybe another one or two classrooms over the next several years, as desks for each class cost roughly $100-per-child, but the Foundation told us she secured enough for all the classrooms all at once, and that was so exciting!”

The Beach School hopes that the new desks will feature a plastic top that the kids can write on with dry erasable markers, “so they can work right on them, then erase and start all over again,” said Principal Karen. “That kind of desk is time saving, interactive and a major convenience, but we want to ensure we buy the best ones to work for us. As such, we have a sample one on order that will be here in the next few weeks that the kids and staff can put through the paces before ordering all 100 new desks, one for each student. The total amount is approximately $11,000 with the Hammerhead Gym donation covering the bulk, and the Beach School paying the balance for tax and shipping through its Furniture Budget allocation that we saved up over the past few years.”

Shhhhh!

For Beach School parents reading this article, Principal Karen implored: “Shhhhh! We hope to surprise the kids with the new desks, where one day they will leave with their old ones, and when they return, the new ones will be in place! We think the students will be really excited to see their brand new desks, and the more excited the kids are about anything educational, the better they learn.”

Not only will the school benefit from the new desks, “but so will the Fort Myers Christian School,” related Tiffany. “Kristen Love, the wife of Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Chief Matt Love, teaches there and she told us that their desks are so old that they are falling apart, with missing screws and sharp edges, so the Beach School will donate to them their old ones that are still in decent shape.”

Tiffany Kersten raised nearly $10,000 for new Beach Elementary School desks with the help of her Hammerhead Gym members.

Tiffany wants to alert everyone about the new Beach Kids Foundation fundraising program. “We are selling stickers for $50 that say, ‘Every Fish in the School Counts,’ playing off of the school’s nickname. You can purchase one here at Hammerhead Beach Gym, at the Red Coconut RV Park, and a number of other island businesses. Our goal is to see this sticker in the window of every Fort Myers Beach business or car!”

Principal Karen cannot thank the Foundation enough, “Not only for the new desks, but everything they do for us, like the generous reading material contribution last year. They are so good to the school and I just love them! I worked at several other schools throughout my career, and believe me when I say that all schools do not have such a valuable resource on whom they can depend, so we really appreciate them and know how fortunate we are that they are in our corner. Because our student population is so small, we do not receive much money from the Lee County School District, as that is on a per-pupil basis, so we are really fortunate to benefit from the Foundation and community businesses like Hammerhead Gym!”

When contemplating on how it personally feels to give back to the Beach School, “overwhelming joy,” beamed Tiffany! “It is not just this initial contribution, but in knowing that students who are not yet even in the school will benefit from these desks for years to come. That makes me proud and happy that we can provide such a generational gift.”