The Ardsley Education Foundation started this academic year with new leadership and branding that has lifted its profile thanks to two public events — its debut AEF Social, “At the Playground,” on Sept. 25, and its second one, “Fall Festival,” happening Sunday, Oct. 17. 

First-time president Lisa Siglag, 53, told the Enterprise on Oct. 11 that the nonprofit organization, established in 1995, was rebuilding after a slowdown that predated the pandemic. Siglag and her husband, Matthew, have two sons attending Ardsley High School, senior Jason and freshman Ryan.

The AEF, which funds technology, projects, and enrichment programs outside the scope of the school budget, had contended with membership turnover and waning interest, more competition for less available grant money, and fewer large-scale events. The AEF had not held its traditional spring gala and in-person auction since 2018, for example. When Covid hit, activity nearly ground to a halt as parents dealt with more pressing issues and competing priorities.

It was difficult for the Foundation to pivot to alternative fundraisers, though it did find a unique way to host “Know Whiskey: Tasting and Learning Night,” originally scheduled as an in-person event in February 2020. Instead, in March approximately 35 ticketholders received a hand-delivered package containing a spirits glass and a half-dozen whiskey samples, courtesy of Ardsley resident Rob Bralow, owner of Blue Streak Wines & Spirits in Long Island City. The event raised slightly more than $2,300.

“We are having AEF Socials to bring the community back together, raise awareness, and of course, fundraise,” Siglag stated. Her involvement with the group began in 2014. In 2017, a new full-time job cut down on her volunteer activity. Switching to a career as a consultant in the healthcare industry and contracted real estate writer has enabled her to return to AEF work.  

Siglag, ex officio president Dana Ross, the new executive board, and AEF members, who include the principals of all three schools, pondered the Foundation’s situation and discussed its path forward.

“One thing we thought about was, ‘Where does the Ardsley Education Foundation fit?’” Siglag related. “The PTA works with the teachers, the Panthers are all about athletics, we are about fundraising for academics, but we also want to be about bringing the community together. So we are trying to brand this idea of AEF Social. AEF Social is new.”

“At the Playground,” held at Concord Road Elementary, was conceived to introduce parents to the Foundation, and to promote the upcoming “Fall Festival.” “At every event we’re building for the next event,” Siglag said. Children in attendance received teddy bears.

The Fall Festival, at the high school football field from 5-7 p.m., will be a mash-up of music, food, arts, crafts, shopping, and skills demonstrations.

In addition to more traditional activities (rides, 5-minute massages, hair-braiding, take-home crafts), Edge Martial Arts of Dobbs Ferry will guide children in breaking boards; an instructor from NORY Westchester, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) enrichment organization, will demonstrate a technology project geared toward elementary students; and UMAC Martial Arts Center of Ardsley will help children try some moves and win prizes. 

Regarding the festival’s entry fee ($5 per person or $20 per family), Siglag said, “We don’t want anybody to feel left out, if you’re a family in need. We said on our Facebook page to reach out, because we still want you to be there.” Send a (private) direct message through facebook.com/ArdsleyEducationFoundation.

Siglag emphasized the reason for the Foundation’s more extroverted approach. “In the last five years, there’s been so much divide because of politics, and the pandemic has caused us to be apart in so many ways. We want us to come together as a community, and what better way than for us to rally around our schools? The need to come together is crucial

The Foundation is already planning its spring online auction, which customarily was paired with the gala’s in-person auction. Whether such a gathering takes place will depend on the status of the pandemic. 

For tickets to the Fall Festival, visit www.ardsleyeducationfoundation.org. The Paypal receipt serves as the ticket. 

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