West Student Council: ‘The Breakfast Must Go On’
POCONO SUMMIT – The Pocono Mountain West High School Student Council was not about to let a pandemic take away one of their favorite and most rewarding annual events. This year’s Pancake Breakfast may look and feel a little different, but the dedicated students and faculty advisors behind them are soldiering on.
Pocono Mountain West opened in 2002 and German teacher Jennifer Paul, of Mount Pocono, has been advising the student council the entire time. Eighteen years ago, the first West student council decided that they wanted to find a way to help district families during the holiday season. “They knew that there were families in our school who could not afford to have the holiday they wanted for their children and who had more needs than wants,” Paul told The Boro. “The Pancake Breakfast was their answer to raising money for families in our school who are in need during the holiday season.”
For the past 17 years, the annual council event has helped anywhere from two to six local families have a more joyous holiday. This year four families will benefit from their efforts. No one involved with the event – students, faculty, or others – know who the families are. The district guidance counselors, who are privy to private information and know which families would benefit from a little extra help, select them. The selected families prepare wish lists and the information is given to the council by the guidance department. The students know them only as “Families A, B, C, and D”.
Usually, after the breakfast, the council members take the proceeds and go out shopping to buy as much as they can for the beneficiaries. They all then wrap the gifts, labeling them “Family A”, “Family B”, and so forth. The wrapped presents are delivered to the guidance office, which takes care of distribution.
Of course, like everything else this year, COVID is changing that process. This year the personal shopping spree is out for safety’s sake. Instead, the families are being asked to pick gift cards so that they can then purchase things they need and want.
The Pancake Breakfast has grown and changed a lot over the past 17 years. It has grown into a true community event. “The students take pride in creating a festive atmosphere,” Paul said. There are decorations, games, and crafts for children, characters based on the year’s theme, and an overall cheerful and pleasant atmosphere. In the past few years, they have served over 400 people. It has become a holiday staple for many West staff members, students, families, and alumni.
The entire Student Council is responsible for selling tickets and the Community Service Committee plans and organizes the breakfast. Usually, they have about 50 council members working the breakfast as batter and pancake makers, entertaining children at the Kids’ Corner, taking pictures, serving food, bussing tables, etc.
As West junior, Cassidy Feuerstein, Pocono Lake, a member of the council Community Service Committee, told us, “In a normal year, the cafeteria of our school is filled with chatter as adults in the community catch up or get to know each other, families have a nice meal together, and kids race around the kids corner playing games, making crafts and taking pictures with Santa. The atmosphere of the event is extremely joyful! And the pancakes taste delicious! From a worker's point of view, it is a lot of fun! I get to work alongside other council members and get to chat and laugh with them throughout the event.”
“This year the event is going to be different, Cassidy says, “but we are working hard to make it amazing!” Instead of a sit-down breakfast, ticket buyers will do a drive-through to pick up their breakfast. Paul said that this year they will probably need only about 30 members working since it will be a drive-through. In addition to the usual pancake breakfast, they will still be providing holiday crafts for the kids, but in a grab and go fashion. “It was really important to our students to keep the atmosphere of the Pancake Breakfast alive,” said Paul, “even though it will be a drive-through this year.”
The change in format hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of the West students. Cassidy says she got involved in the Pancake Breakfasts “because it is extremely rewarding and is just a great experience. I am so excited to attend this year's event and make memories!”
Paul wanted to make sure that we recognized all of the parts of the community that come together every year to make this special event happen. “The breakfast would not be successful without the donations we receive from local businesses and our Student Council families”, Paul said. So far this year, they have received donations from Bill’s Shop Rite and Weis Market, in Mount Pocono, Weis in Tannersville, Giant in Bartonsville, Van Gilder’s Jubilee Restaurant, Mountaintop Lodge, Amadeo's Pizza, Pocono Mountain Dairy, Chartwells, Wegmans in Nazareth, and Auntie Anne's Pretzels in the Crossings. More donations are coming in all the time, she said.
West’s Student Council members’ families give a great deal of support to the event with donations of materials and money, they are always very supportive of the students and their vision. Paul also lauded support from alumni. This year, she said, a West alumna made a very generous donation to the cause and that they are “very thankful to her for thinking of the families in our school who are in need.”
Paul emphasized how hard the students have worked on the event this year and managed to keep their focus despite all the unusual obstacles they encountered. “We have not met in person since March. All of our meetings are on Zoom and they show up each week and continue to plan and make things happen, despite difficult circumstances. They have really learned how to adapt this year!”
The drive-through will be held on Saturday, December 12, from 8 am to Noon, at the Pocono Mountain West High School, 181 Panther Lane, Pocono Summit, near the cafeteria.
Pancakes, home fries, bacon, sausage, drinks and more will be served; there will be free craft activity packages for kids under 12, too. Tickets are $8.50 in advance, $9.00 the day of the event. But don’t wait, for tickets go to pmwestsc.ticketleap.com/pancake-breakfast.
If you are not interested in the breakfast, go to the website and click on the “Tickets” icon to make a donation to help local families who could use a hand up during the holiday season.