By Toni Sherwood
Seeds of Learning
As hundreds of guests mark their calendars for a spectacular evening of dining and dancing on Aug. 21, dozens of volunteers begin the process of preparing for their arrival.
Kathleen Lemons has volunteered to help at the bar twice before, but this year has stepped up to manage the bar and head the drinks committee.
“I’m a social person,” Lemons admitted. “It’s so much fun to see people enjoying themselves, and then they’re more open and giving.”
Giving is a big aspect of Dancing with the Pagosa Stars (DWTPS) since it is the much-heralded annual fundraiser supporting Seeds of Learning.
“I have four kids and three bonus kids from my second marriage,” Lemons explained, “I served on my kids’ preschool board, so I know Seeds offers a superior education, the best around, and I want to support that.”
Because many of their friends depend on Seeds, Lemons recognizes how helpful the program is for working parents, including teachers and physicians crucial to our community.
This year, Lemons is organizing 10 volunteers to help set up and run the bar, many from other groups she volunteers with, such as the Upper San Juan Search and Rescue team.
Many locals will recognize our celebrity bartender, Mary Jo Coulehan.
“I’m the community event bartender,” Coulehan laughed.
Her uplifting personality and humorous outlook are an asset to any event — you may have seen her serving at the recent Build Pagosa soiree or the Chile Cha-Cha.
But Coulehan has a special relationship with Seeds of Learning. She has known Executive Director Lynne Bridges since before Bridges took the helm at Seeds, and Coulehan served on the initial group that brought Seeds of Learning into inception.
“I went to the wrong meeting and stayed for two years,” Coulehan quipped.
It was through a survey to the Pagosa Springs community that the need for child care became evident.
“Originally it was about day care, but I’ve watched Seeds grow into the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Center it is today,” Coulehan said.
One of the highly anticipated aspects of the evening is the dining experience — and it takes a lot of hands to serve every guest in a timely manner.
Terry McGaughy has previously volunteered as a server and last year assisted emcee Lisa Peters. This year, she and Muriel Buckley will be overseeing the food service and volunteers.
“It’s fun to volunteer,” McGaughy said. “You see a lot of people you know and get to meet new people.”
Before COVID, visitors could tour Seeds of Learning; McGaughy recalls her own visit.
“I liked the atmosphere; it was very calm and orderly. You could tell the kids were in a good place with good teachers,” she said.
McGaughy enrolled her own kids in a preschool when she was a working mom in the city.
“I had to work and I needed a good place for them to be. They all loved it and thought it was the best thing ever,” she fondly recalled.
Buckley has not only volunteered at every DWTPS event, but she was also involved in Seeds’ former fundraiser, the Little Black Dress. As a retired fourth-grade teacher, Buckley understands the benefits of early education.
“It exposes kids to rich experiences that help them build a strong foundation,” she said. “And their emotional development soars.”
Buckley’s son-in-law served on Seeds’ board of directors in past years and her granddaughter is currently enrolled.
“Seeds is one of the most influential nonprofits in our community,” Buckley said. “So many people feel it’s important and everyone can help in their own way; I can commit to this extravaganza.”
Want tickets to this extravaganza? Tickets go on sale July 15. Follow us at: https://www.facebook.com/Dancingstarspagosa.
Of course, what is a fantastic meal without a delectable dessert?
Janet Richardson has been the designer of desserts for DWTPS since its debut in 2018, but she’s been making desserts for far longer.
“I love cooking and baking,” Richardson said. “This year will be a new challenge, I always try to do something different.”
She will bring back her trade-marked bourbon balls, but she will also be creating a special bite-sized dessert. All the baking is done in her kitchen, then carefully wrapped and packaged by a group of volunteers.
“It’s like an assembly line,” Richardson said. “The presentation is a big part of things.”
All of our volunteers are dedicated to making the guest experience memorable and fun in order to ensure Seeds of Learning can provide superior education for children of families from all income levels.
Want to meet these cool peeps and be part of the DWTPS team? For more information and to sign up, please go to: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0a4da9ac2fa2ff2-volunteer17.