Growing with purpose: Fundraiser to support late teacher’s dream of butterfly garden

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Savor Westfield co-chairs Adrienne Epstein and Michele Lyons, garden co- chair Ashlie January, fourth-grade teacher Jackie Hiatt and garden co-chair Celeste Brinson-Ware. (Photo by Sadie Hunter)

By Anna Skinner

For the past two years, Savor Westfield has raised money for various Oak Trace Elementary School projects, and this year is no different. Savor Westfield is a tasting event where residents purchase tickets to try local restaurants’ food during an event Sept. 14.

Jim Zabst plants his late wife Karen’s milkweed plants at Oak Trace Elementary School. (Submitted photo)

However, instead of a new playground or updated computer labs like previous years, proceeds will go toward making the late OTES teacher Karen Zabst’s dream of creating a butterfly garden at the school come true.

Zabst, a kindergarten teacher, died last year due to pancreatic cancer. Fourth-grade teacher Jackie Hiatt applied for a grant late last year to create a butterfly garden to incorporate into student lessons. Unbeknownst to her, Zabst had already been aware of the fading monarch population.

“Karen Zabst had already for several years been aware of that problem. She had been collecting milkweed seeds, planting them in their yard,” Hiatt said. “Karen had a great desire to see milkweed planted here at the school, and I didn’t know that. I came in one day and heard the kindergarten teachers say they had milkweed seeds from Karen, and I said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that, I just wrote a grant to start a monarch garden.’”

Hiatt won the $1,000 from the Westfield Education Foundation, which was enough to start the butterfly garden. Hiatt said the rest of the funds will come from the Savor Westfield fundraiser. At the end of the 2016-17 schoolyear, OTES students and Jim Zabst, Karen’s husband, helped plant milkweed. Milkweed is difficult to grow from seeds, so Jim brought some starter plants from Karen’s garden.

“You’re providing what a monarch needs to survive and not using pesticides,” Hiatt said of the project. “The kids are learning about that, and becoming a part of that will be in the learning process. We will connect (the monarch garden) to (education) standards, implement those and design activities. My thought was it could be used all the time. If you want to go out there and measure, if you want to do math, it just provides a hands-on experience in a real-world learning opportunity, which is what learning should be.”

A goal is that the garden will be a certified monarch waystation, where monarchs can be tagged and tracked during their migration.

This will be the third year for Savor Westfield, and tickets go on sale Aug. 14. The event is from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. with a VIP entrance at 6 at the Bridgewater Club, 3535 E. 161st St. The 78’s will provide music the and alcohol will be sold. Eighteen restaurants will participate in the event. Presale tickets are $30 and $35 at the door. A 50-50 raffle also will be held during the event.

Savor Westfield is planned by the OTES PTO. Co-chair Adrienne Epstein said money will be split this year between the waystation and new technology. She gives a lot of credit to the event’s title sponsor, Indy Dental Group, which has been with the program since its inception in 2015.

“When I told them the idea they loved it and said they would like to be a big sponsor,” Epstein said. “All dentists and hygienists hand out programs when (attendees) are walking in. They volunteer there.” Dental-related items are handed out as attendees leave the event.

Michele Lyons co-chairs the event with Epstein, but this will be their last Savor Westfield together. New co-chairs will be named for next year’s event.

For more, visit savorwestfield.com

Approximately 640 people attend each Savor Westfield at the Bridgewater Club.

Savor Westfield in years past

In 2015: Savor Westfield raised $18,000. The money went toward a new playground for Oak Trace Elementary School. In addition, $1,250 went to the Westfield Youth Assistance Program.

In 2016: Savor Westfield raised $23,000 for new computers for OTES. In addition, $1,250 went to the Westfield Youth Assistance Program.

 Participating restaurants

  • Biaggi’s
  • Bier Brewery
  • Blackhawk Winery
  • Chiba
  • GiGi’s cupcakes
  • Grand Junction Brewing Co.
  • Greeks Pizzeria
  • Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya
  • Jan’s Village Pizza
  • J. Razzo’s 2
  • Rail Epicurean Market
  • Stacked Pickle
  • The Bridgewater Club
  • The Italian House
  • Titus Bakery
  • Union Baking Co.
  • Urban Vines
  • Wolfie’s Westfield
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