The following was submitted by Cara Martin of Bridgewater State University
--- On Saturday, Dec. 1, a snowy day in Mansfield, MA set the stage for Mansfield Education Foundation’s (MEF) Annual Secret Shop. Secret Shop was originally started by The Mansfield Social Club in the 1960s. Since 2010, MEF has successfully continued the tradition of gathering student elves and parent volunteers to transform the Jordan Jackson Elementary School cafeteria into a holiday mini mall.
“There are tables of gifts for everyone on their lists, Mom, Dad, Grandparents, friends and pets. Children, kindergarten to fifth grade love to do their holiday shopping with us at Secret Shop,” said Marybeth Cragan, MEF President. Tables full of donated merchandise circled the Jordan Jackson cafeteria as shoppers waited patiently in line. “I volunteer for Secret Shop because everyone has fun helping the younger kids shop, and it’s for a good cause,” says elf Kelli Reynolds, age 13, of Qualters Middle School. The proceeds from Secret Shop will help fund grants MEF provides to Mansfield teachers.
The Secret Shop elves are Qualters Middle School students and Mansfield High School students volunteer as cashiers at tables and dress-up as elf escorts. Each shopper receives “five-star” treatment as elves help them pick out personalized gifts for everyone on their lists and custom wrap each item. The gifts range in price from $1.00 to $5.00; some hot selling items included gloves, calendars, earrings, and candles.
Many shoppers bought tickets ahead of time online instead of cash in order to beat the check-out lines. Each ticket costs a dollar and allows for a pay-as-you-go system with children dropping tickets off at tables rather than a cash transaction at the end.
Attendance for the event was 450 child shoppers. “Secret Shop is a success because parents remember doing it when they were in elementary school. It is a Mansfield tradition our community and local businesses help keep alive generation after generation,” Cragan added.
While waiting for their shoppers to finish, many parents got the opportunity to relax, drink some hot cocoa and purchase raffle tickets. Tables in the raffle room were sponsored by local businesses: Barrows Insurance Agency, Inc., Behavioral Concepts, Inc., Comcast Center, and Le Studio Dance.
In addition, Mansfield High School’s Entrepreneurs Class was present selling Mansfield branded goods. The class is a direct result of MEF’s "Grants in Action” program. “The Entrepreneur class is our (MEF’s) first success story. MEF started them out with seed money, and the students generated enough profit to give back to MEF and to charity,” states Nancy Breef-Pilz, MEF Treasurer. This year’s Secret Shop raffle made three times more than last year, increasing funds by thirty percent. Congratulations to the twenty-three raffle winners including Kathy Jones of Mansfield who won the 4-day Disney Theme Parks Hopper tickets. Prizes were donated from various area businesses:
American Girl®, Bay State Envelope, Cold Stone Creamery, Corks, CVS, D&G in Norwood, Mary Kay® (Deirdre Eschauzier), North Easton Savings Bank, Pampered Chef (Tracy Gay), Rite-Aid Pharmacy of Mansfield, Roche Bros., Sally Beauty, Samsonite, Disney Theme Parks, Get in Shape for Women (Deanna DaSilva), Glee Gifts, Green Mountain Coffee, The Guravage Studio, Hasbro Toys, Linda’s Cookies, Scentsy Candles™ (Lilly Fasino), Stop & Shop, Sue’s Cleaners, Sweetsies Cupcakes, Trader Joe’s, Vera Bradley, and Wines and More.
All proceeds from Secret Shop go to MEF’s Teacher Recognition Program. Mansfield Education Foundation (MEF), an independent, non-profit 501(c) 3 charitable organization is dedicated to awarding direct grants and raising funds through corporate and private donations.
Created in 2010, MEF is led by Mansfield residents, parents and local business professionals: Marybeth Cragan, Nancy Breef-Pilz, Erika Reynolds, and Linda Fernando. Last year, MEF gave away $10,000 to seven Mansfield educators that illustrated innovation in education and creativity in their classrooms. For more information about other MEF events, volunteering, or donating, please contact MEF via email at info@MansfieldEducationFoundation.org.