Leadership group flips pancakes for a cause

Winter Park Chamber members have kept the philanthropy alive for 15 years, recently donating thousands of dollars to local schools.

Winter Park Chamber members have kept the philanthropy alive for 15 years, recently donating thousands of dollars to local schools.

Allison Olcsvay

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It’s been 15 years since Leadership Winter Park alumni created a tasty way to raise money for local schools. Countless stacks of flapjacks and a boatload of syrup later, the Winter Park Chamber’s Pancake Breakfast is still going strong.

The breakfast flipped its first flapjack back in 1998, when Marjorie Myers, former owner of Paco’s Mexican Restaurant and a graduate of Leadership Winter Park, came up with the idea.”

“Since then it has grown every year and over the years we have raised over $110,000 for schools in Winter Park,” event chair Rhonda Loft said.

“Marje” was a big part of the event leadership every year until her death in 2009.

“Paco’s is still one of our largest sponsors providing all the pancake batter, sausage and syrup every year,” Loft said.

Soon Whole Foods, T.G. Lee, Panera Bread, Orlando Health, Rollins College, Valencia College, Vanson Constructors, Fannie Hillman Associates Real Estate and many others were on board.

“All event sponsors are local companies,” Loft said, “because we want this to continue to be a community event. All the money is raised locally and benefits schools within our community.”

Ticket prices for the breakfast, held the first Saturday in December, are $6 for adults and $4 for students.

Money raised at the breakfast through ticket sales and sponsorships goes directly to the elementary schools that feed into Winter Park High School, which include Aloma Elementary, Audubon Park Elementary, Brookshire Elementary, Dommerich Elementary, Killarney Elementary and Lakemont Elementary.

“We are very proud to say that the amount we are able to give to each school has increased every year,” Loft said.

This year the breakfast raised almost $25,000. Expenses are covered first, followed by a small portion set aside to provide scholarships for non-profit business leaders to attend Leadership Winter Park.

The rest of the proceeds are divided equally between the six schools.

Checks were presented to the principals of each school on Feb. 10 during the Winter Park City Commission meeting.

This year each school received more than $3,000, up from around $2,000 last year.

The pancake staff did something a little different this year, visiting each school before the event to talk to parents and staff and get them interested.

“We were surprised by how many people were not aware that the money from the pancake breakfast went directly to benefit their schools,” Loft said. “[The visits were] eye-opening for committee members and we plan to continue them every year in the future to promote the event and to stay in touch with the schools and their needs.”

Many of the benefitting schools already have big plans for how they will spend their money. The thank you notes poured in after the breakfast, with hints at how far that money will go.

Brookshire Elementary is using the money to provide 12 staff members with CPR and first aid training, and to purchase school supplies and backpacks for students in need.

“These things are only possible due to the work of Leadership Winter Park and volunteers,” Brookshire principal Marc Rummler wrote.

Dommerich Elementary will buy furniture for its computer lab, Principal Junella Kreil wrote.

Audubon Park Elementary will be purchasing Google Chrome books for students to use and Lakemont Elementary 5th grade classrooms will be receiving iPad Minis using their funds.

Aloma Elementary principal Dr. Drew Hawkins said he plans to meet with team leaders in the next few weeks to make a decision on how they will use the money.

“We want to make sure it’s used in the best way possible to benefit all students,” he said. “We’re not sure yet if that will be in the art program or the music program or somewhere else, but we think it’s a wonderful thing they do for schools in the Winter Park area.”