Hammond school alumni join forces
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent June 26, 2012 1:48PM
Members of Alumni & Friends of Hammond Schools enjoy a socializing and fundraising event recently at Wicker Park in Highland. | Supplied photo
For more information about Alumni & Friends of Hammond Schools, call Nancy Machnikowski at (219) 933-2400, Ext. 1060, visit the website www.hammondeducationfoundation.org/alumni-friends/ or Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Alumni-Friends-of-Hammond
HAMMOND — Class reunions normally involve old school friends catching up on one anothers’ lives.
Some high school classes have added a twist — turning them into fundraisers, then forwarding proceeds to pay for “extras” not in their alma mater’s current financial plan.
A new group, Alumni & Friends of Hammond Schools, has the same idea about helping schools here. A recent fundraiser attracted 125 people, learning about its goals.
As an arm of the Hammond Education Foundation, Alumni & Friends of Hammond Schools seeks to provide support beyond budget limits in the Hammond schools, said Wes Lukoshus, HEF president and a Morton High School alumnus.
Proceeds from this recent event, plus the new group’s future fundraisers, will be sent to the HEF and returned to Hammond schools via grants that support extraordinary learning to help students succeed.
“Alumni & Friends of Hammond Schools seeks to appeal to the many proud Hammond graduates and friends who value the Hammond school system for how it helped facilitate personal growth, memorable experiences and opportunities, and preparation for success and development,” Lukoshus said. “We believe there are many Hammond alumni and friends who would like to give back to their schools.
“It is not our intention to replace high school reunions, but appeal to reunion planners and attendees in an effort to give back to our schools.”
Janis Basala-Bermingham, a Hammond Tech graduate, and Hammond resident Sharon Blanchard attended the recent event.
“We didn’t know what to expect when we bought our tickets,” Bermingham said. “It’s an interesting idea to bring all the schools together for this benefit.”
Other Hammond graduates shared stories during the social hour.
“We always kept costs down for our class reunions; having ‘seed money’ for the next year was always our goal,” said Richard Kitchell, president for Hammond High School’s Class of ’71. “Over the years, we accumulated a little money, heard about the Hammond Education Foundation, and found the money could go for any of the Hammond schools.”
Proceeds from the 40th class reunion last year, plus some of that accumulated money, totaled a donation of $1,500 to the Hammond Education Foundation. Per the Class of ’71’s request, that gift was earmarked for Hammond High over a five-year period.
Marilyn Martin attended Hammond Tech in the 1970s. Although her family moved to Illinois before she graduated, she kept in touch with classmates and attended reunions, since she was in her senior year when the family moved.
Martin always considered herself part of the Hammond Tech class.
Martin was not at the recent Alumni & Friends event, but said she heard about it through friends after the fact and plans to join.
“I think it’s a great idea; I don’t have a lot of opportunity to run into former classmates, since Tech doesn’t always have regular reunions,” said Martin, a Merrillville resident. “And it would be interesting to meet other Hammond kids from schools that used to be our rivals.”
Martin said that although many alumni, like her, don’t live in Hammond, they still are concerned about the educational opportunities for students in their hometown. And, she thinks they will support the schools any way they can.
All Hammond school graduates, plus former students and their friends, are invited to join the group.