Mrs. D and her sidekick Ethan rally students to log books for the Read to Feed Fundraiser.
Mrs. D and her sidekick Ethan rally students to log books for the Read to Feed Fundraiser.

By Molly Fincher, World Ark writer
Photos by Shannon Moon Photography

Elena Desjardins—known as “Mrs. D” to her students—leads the Read to Feed® charge at West Bath School, a 150-student elementary school in Maine. Last year, the school raised enough for a Heifer Ark and beyond: $7,525. That’s 1,250 books! Here, Desjardins shares the secrets to her success.

+ FOLLOW THE LEADER
When fourth-grader Ethan Reno asked to help, Desjardins minted him the Read to Feed student ambassador. His duties included making posters, writing personal notes to drum up support and cajoling his peers to sign on and do their share. Ethan’s hard sell convinced 28 students to flip pages for the Read to Feed campaign. Desjardins set a goal to raise $500 herself, a move that helped cement the sense of cooperation at West Bath. “We felt like we were truly all in this quest together as a team to earn an Ark,” she said.

+ DO THE MATH
Desjardins crossed curriculum lines, cleverly crafting a math lesson to show how funds increase exponentially as new donors sign on. 

+ JUST ASK
Desjardins convinced her Read-to- Feeders to ask local businesses for support, a move that brought in $1,000. 

+ GET CONNECTED
Heifer staff and volunteers are everywhere, and they love to help. Jane Elwell, a Heifer volunteer in Maine, came to West Bath School to share photos and stories from a trip she took to visit Heifer projects in Peru. 

+ GEEK OUT
Use all the technological tools available to add some flash. Desjardins showed students YouTube clips and videos about Heifer’s work to inspire them to read more. She also took advantage of Heifer’s online fundraising platform to create a website specific to West Bath’s Read to Feed campaign. These easy-to-build websites allow people to donate online and track the campaign’s progress. You can customize a page by adding your own videos, images and stories, and students can even create their own fundraising pages nested within the overall campaign, personalized with their own goals and content. 

West Bath students and Elena Desjardins present a check to Jan West Schrock, the daughter of Heifer founder Dan West.
West Bath students and Elena Desjardins present a check to Jan West Schrock, the daughter of Heifer founder Dan West.

+ BRAG
Keeping everyone posted on progress toward the goal keeps momentum going. Desjardins checked the school’s Read to Feed website weekly to see how they were doing. “It was very exciting to see my students’ genuine anticipation and excitement as I logged onto the website to reveal the amount of online donations for that week,” she said. “It helped keep Read to Feed alive and well in our minds and hearts.”

+ REWARD SUCCESS
The readers at West Bath School won pizza, popsicles and other prizes when they met their goal. Ethan Reno ensured the Heifer legacy at West Bath will continue when he gave his award, a stuffed animal, to a kindergartener who will be ready to log a few books for next year’s campaign.