SHERBURN - At the beginning of the year, a group of citizens in the Martin County West area formed "Operation: Watchful Eye."
It included not only parents and grandparents, but police, school, business and city officials, all focusing on school security.
The group now goes by "MCW-SOS." This year, it raised enough funds for Martin County West to implement a phone notification system.
"We haven't held any fundraisers yet," explained organizer Stephanie Truesdell in an e-mail to the Sentinel. "But we have been able to donate enough money to the school so [it] can implement the phone calling system for the next few years."
The system will contact families of Martin County West students en masse, as needed.
"It could be warnings for weather, school updates or other notices," said Ike Krogman of MCW-SOS.
So far, the group has raised funds simply by contacting area businesses.
"We sent out a letter to local businesses and also word of mouth brought in some awesome donation from area residents," Truesdell stated. "We are so grateful for the support from the community."
The district also recently implemented an intercom system for its buildings. Visitors during normal school hours must be "buzzed" in by office staff, and then stop and sign in at the office.
"The intercom was in the works before we got started," Krogman said. "But we're both still working on projects."
When the group first formed, its main goal was to get video surveillance in the schools. The district was working on getting surveillance for the high school building, but had not discussed putting it in elsewhere.
The group is aware that the funds it raises are for the district to use at its discretion. However, when the group was initiated, the district was pleased to work on a list of priority projects, so once fundraising was under way the group could say what the funds will be put toward.
While this year focused on businesses, MCW-SOS likely will be in the public eye more in 2014.
"We're discussing doing something like a pancake feed, and some other fundraising deals," Krogman said. "We did a good job; we raised $10,000 in our first year."
"It is a slow process but we hope to keep chugging along," Truesdell said.