ETPA convention helps build knowledge, resources

Each year the European Parent Teacher Association invites its units from all over Europe to attend an annual convention. This year marked EPTA’s 53rd gathering, which took place at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Among those in attendance were PTA unit representatives from the Kaiserslautern districts of Landstuhl, Ramstein and Vogelweh.

The convention took place May 20 to 24, during which time representatives were able to attend workshops, complete training and attend idea sharing seminars to prepare for the upcoming school year.

In addition to building knowledge and resources throughout European districts, EPTA also utilizes this time to raise funds for their annual scholarships, which benefit graduating seniors.

Each attending unit donates a basket of items, and raffle tickets are sold on behalf of the scholarship fund.  Additionally, a quilt is traditionally donated to be auctioned off during the final evening of convention. 

Having attended the EPTA convention the previous year, Julia Halpain, the Vogelweh Elementary School PTSA president, was eager to get involved in helping ensure this year’s scholarship fundraising efforts were a success. She spoke to her mother, June Hansen, 77, about the upcoming quilt auction and asked if she might be willing to contribute to the cause.

Graciously accepting the challenge, Hansen began working right away. This year’s convention theme was “It all fits … EPTA.” The theme referenced parents, teachers, students, schools and community involvement. Utilizing this theme, Hansen patched together vibrant colors in the shape of block style puzzle pieces and then embellished them with embroidery depicting elements of the theme. She worked so fervently and was so inspired by the project that the quilt was complete in two weeks time.

This year EPTA was fortunate enough to have two quilts donated. Throughout the four day convention, both quilts were displayed for everyone to admire. 

Among those admiring the quilts was Sgt. Waylon Merket, a young Army Reservist from Forth Worth, Texas, who had been called to active duty and was staying at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort with his friend Derrick Chandler while on R&R from a yearlong deployment in Iraq. During his stay, Merket spent days assisting EPTA officials in setting up workshops, making copies, stuffing folders and helping wherever needed. He and his friend took time away from perusing their own interests and gave selflessly to the needs of the ETPA and its members.

Both young men were invited to join everyone for the banquet dinner celebration the last evening of convention during which time they could be honored for their help. Prior to auctioning the quilts that evening, it was announced that EPTA had collected just shy of $1,200 on the baskets brought in by attending units — an outstanding amount considering there were just 12 baskets up for grabs.

Then began the auction for the first quilt, which was donated by EPTA board adviser Michael Curley’s mother and sister. The quilt sold for $600 to Dr. Nancy Bressell, the director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe.
Then it came time for the quilt donated by Hansen. The bidding started at $50, but after three bids was up to $300. The competition for the quilt was between Merket and one other audience member.

The next bid was a donation to Merket to support him in purchasing the quilt. From that moment forward, there was no more competition. The entire room delved into their pockets and kept adding to Merket’s bid.  Some folks added $20, $40 or $60 each, and then there were those who added $100 or $200 to his total. 

By the time it was finished, through the donations of those in the room and Merket’s bid, the quilt sold for $1,200, which went toward the EPTA
scholarship fund.

Halpain cried after seeing the generosity displayed that night.

“My mother had a purpose for that quilt, and I can’t think of any place better for it to go,” she said. 

Merket said he would be sending the quilt home to his wife, Megan, and their three sons, Andrew, 5, Loki, 2, and Jasper, 1, before returning to his post in Iraq.

Upon hearing the amazing story of how her quilt found a home, Hansen said, “My sewing and quilting is truly a therapy for me and this has brought me great joy knowing I could help others in some small way.”

(By Alyssa Truman and Julia Halpain, Vogelweh Elementary School PTSA)