By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – One holiday chore is more pleasurable thanks to a longtime gift-wrapping fundraiser for the Marlborough Public Schools Music Association (MPSMA), now in progress at Solomon Pond Mall. Last year, 107 volunteers logged 486 hours at the gift-wrap booth on the second floor in front of JCPenney.
Those volunteers included: 48 parents of middle and high school students; 19 high school students in music programs; three School Committee members; two School Council members; eight miscellaneous community leaders; seven alumni students; and 20 alumni parents.
Among this year’s returning volunteers is Marlene Manell. Her two children have each graduated from Marlborough Public Schools, yet Manell continues serving as MPSMA president.
“The music students are great kids,” she proclaimed.
MPSMA raises funds to purchase items not covered in the school budget. Purchases have included a portable sound system for the high school music groups’ offsite presentations, storage units, instruments, uniforms and performance attire.
“Instruments are very expensive,” Manell noted. “An instrument can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 or more. Over the years that I’ve been involved with the music association, we’ve spent well over $100,000.”
Not only does MPSMA purchase instruments, they fund the ongoing process of replacing them.
The gift-wrap booth is a major fundraiser along with concession sales at school concerts and football games. Valerie Steinman is a board member and concessions chair.
“We work very hard to raise that money, but it’s worth it because every penny goes to the kids,” she said. “By the time they’re seniors, they’re aware that if the music association didn’t exist, then many of the things they’ve come to enjoy would simply cease to be. Money can only go so far in the school budget.”
Steinman also returned to volunteer at the gift-wrap booth.
“People have come to know that we’re there and look forward to it,” she said. “We tell people personal accounts of why this music association is so strong and what a difference it has made for our students.”
These experienced gift wrappers are equipped to satisfy various needs. They’re typically stocked with 15 to 20 paper designs from which to choose. Each gift gets decorated with a bow and label. Tissue paper is available as are boxes of many sizes. The suggested donation is $2 and up, depending on the gift size.
“We can wrap just about anything,” Steinman promised. “We like a challenge.”
They also claim a unique ability to camouflage the content of just about any wrapped package, Manell noted.
“One year, somebody wanted to disguise a fishing pole,” she shared. “So I took three of the inner-tubes of the gift wrap, stuck the fishing pole in one of them, and put two more tubes together and wrapped up the whole thing. We get creative when we need to disguise gifts.”
Gifts can be wrapped at the booth whether they’re purchased at the mall or elsewhere. A number of patrons leave items with the volunteers and pick them up after doing more shopping, breaking for lunch at the food court or seeing a movie.
“Leave your gifts with us and you can go enjoy the holiday without being stressed out,”Steinman suggested.
Manell invites other volunteers interested in joining them to contact her at email@example.com.
Booth hours are now through Sunday, Dec. 14, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 16, through Friday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, through Tuesday, Dec. 23, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 24, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information about MPSMA, visit mpsmusic.org.