Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District

Episode 67: Learning about Neighbors for Neighbors with Ms. Annie Mersing

November 01, 2022 Seneca Valley School District
Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District
Episode 67: Learning about Neighbors for Neighbors with Ms. Annie Mersing
Show Notes Transcript

Learning about Neighbors for Neighbors with Ms. Annie Mersing

Ms. Annie Mersing, Seneca Valley Foundation Director of Development

Ms. Annie Mersing earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Concentration in Management from Robert Morris University. Ms. Mersing has been in the Seneca Valley School District since 2019, first serving as the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools.  Now in the role as the Director of Development for the Seneca Valley Foundation, Ms. Mersing also serves as the District's Director of Advancement and provides assistance with securing and writing District grants.


  • What is the Seneca Valley Foundation (SVF)? 
  • Who does it help and what types of programs does the SVF support?
  • What is Neighbors for Neighbors?
  • Why is it important for the community to help with Neighbors for Neighbors?
  • How can someone find out more information or donate?

File Name: Voices E67 Annie Mersing.mp3

File Length: 00:10:03

FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)

00:00:02:26 - 00:00:18:22

Jeff Krakoff: Welcome to Voices, a national award-winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District. This is Geoff Krakoff talking with Annie Mersing who's director of development for the Seneca Valley Foundation. Welcome today. 

00:00:20:04 - 00:00:21:06

Annie Mersing: Thank you for having me. 


00:00:21:19 - 00:00:31:12

Jeff Krakoff: So, Annie, you've been on here before. But just to remind everybody in a nutshell, what is the Seneca Valley Foundation and what does it do? 


00:00:32:04 - 00:01:03:16

Annie Mersing: So the Seneca Valley Foundation is the nonprofit arm of the district where a 501c3. And our mission, just in summary, is to provide the gift of hope and promise of excellence to the Seneca Valley students and staff. We do this by raising funds that will support teacher projects, capital improvement projects, the arts, educational experiences, STEM initiatives, things like that, things that are important to the district. And that set us apart from other school systems. 


00:01:03:27 - 00:01:11:25

Jeff Krakoff: Okay, so all of your work goes toward benefiting both staff students. Just a lot of different programs, right? 


00:01:12:03 - 00:02:13:17

Annie Mersing: Yeah, absolutely. The Foundation is really the catalyst for so many great things happening at Seneca; not all of them. You know, we have amazing administration and educators and staff and even PTO's that do amazing things. But the foundation does provide significant support for initiatives across the district. In the past, we funded things like Classrooms without Borders, educational trips for teachers, equipment for the robotics and biotechnology labs, food trucks for staff appreciation, a lot of COVID-19 relief in the past couple of years. And I would say more recently, we have or will be funding the No Cost to Shop store in the Senior High that's available to all secondary students, a book vending machine and outdoor learning equipment at pane, and even a trip to the Flight 93 memorial for Ryan Gloyer Middle School students. We're doing some really awesome things, and it's all because of the generosity of this community. 


00:02:13:26 - 00:02:23:00

Jeff Krakoff: Yep. And I know one of the things you want to talk about today is a particular initiative called Neighbors for Neighbors. What is that all about? 


00:02:23:23 - 00:03:01:02

Annie Mersing: Yes. So Neighbors for Neighbors is a really incredible organization created about 10 years ago by Ms. Amy Roy, who is an attorney by day and lives in Cranberry. Neighbors for Neighbors mission is to fulfill holiday wish lists for local children. Last year, they shopped for over 200 Seneca Valley students. I really like to call them our partner in joy. The organization was kind of grown organically from Ms. Roy just trying to help single moms in Penn Hills where she worked, to her discovering this almost hidden need for children in her own backyard here in Seneca Valley. 


00:03:01:24 - 00:04:13:24

Annie Mersing: You know, many people in our community are very fortunate, but there are also many people who just are not. There are families struggling with illness where they cannot work. Families with two working parents who still struggle to pay their electric bill or put gasoline in their cars. So the organization really helps those families. And those families, we have to realize, are our neighbors. So how it works is with the assistance of our principals, building secretaries and school counselors; and keep in mind that this is all done in the most confidential manner out of respect for those families, just to not make them feel isolated. We identify families that could benefit from the program and then work with those parents to complete wish list for the children. Once we have that info compiled, incredible shoppers that Neighbors for Neighbors use donations to go out and fulfill those lists. Then we discretely get those gifts to parents and Neighbors for Neighbors even provides wrapping paper and bows so that the children are given some joy during the upcoming holiday season, and that financial burden for parents is relieved somewhat. 


00:04:14:15 - 00:04:24:05

Jeff Krakoff: And I suppose that's where the Foundation comes in, right? You're the arm that helps get that funding that's necessary for a great program like this. How does that work? 


00:04:24:18 - 00:06:34:06

Annie Mersing: Yeah, and this is probably one of my favorite things to do through the Foundation, because we are really helping our neighbors. It's important to support this group because they are supporting us. All these donations are coming right back to Seneca Valley students and staff. And so how we do it is this is, I think, actually the third year in a row we're doing a campaign called Five Days 5K. It's something we'll be hosting beginning November 1st through November 5th. And our goal, just as the name suggests, is to raise $5,000 in just five days, which will be given directly to N4N. Last year we had great success doing it. We actually exceeded our goal by raising $5,880, and I really want to do that again this year. We create a fundraising page on the Mighty Cause website. And that's where people can donate directly. We'll be sending out some email blasts and putting this info on Twitter, etc. and our social media for the district. But people should really look out for our Five Days 5K campaign. And if I may. Jeff, I wanted to just give a shout out to some other local organizations that are helping Neighbors for Neighbors. There is one group called 100 Women Who Care out of Cranberry who offer funding for incredible projects like this, and Neighbors for Neighbors has been awarded funding for the third year in a row just last week, and I feel like that's really a good testament of the work that Neighbors for Neighbors is doing, because to get the support of this group is not an easy task. Also, the Cranberry AM Rotary has pledged to fulfill quite a few wish lists, just as they did last year. And also the Georgie Smigel Real Estate group will once again buy gifts and even a complete holiday meal for one family that is really struggling this year. They've been doing that on an annual basis as well. And I think it just it brings everyone together so much to see all this goodness and all this giving, and I just wanted to thank everyone for for what they're doing. 


00:06:34:19 - 00:06:48:09

Jeff Krakoff: How wonderful. So you will be sending emails out to folks to the community. And again, to reiterate, all the money donated will go to families within the Seneca Valley School District as part of this program, right? 


00:06:48:21 - 00:07:05:05

Annie Mersing: Yes. So Neighbors for Neighbors does they have a greater reach than just Seneca? But I would say I think they help about 450 children each year and almost 200-250 of those kids are specifically from Seneca Valley. 


00:07:05:22 - 00:07:09:29

Jeff Krakoff: Okay. And is there information on the Seneca Valley website as well? 


00:07:10:12 - 00:07:23:07

Annie Mersing: Yes. So once we launch the campaign again on November 1st; we'll start it, it's five days of fun.  It'll be available on our website and we'll also be pushing it out through our social media pages. 


00:07:23:21 - 00:07:32:13

Jeff Krakoff: Great. So is there anything else that we need to know in the Seneca Valley community about both the Foundation and the Neighbors for Neighbors program? 


00:07:33:01 - 00:08:08:29

Annie Mersing: So I'll share that once we wrap up the Five Days to 5K, the Foundation will be hosting our own annual support campaign. This year we'll be asking our entire community to support us in our final fundraiser of 2022. And this is a really good time for staff, community members, alumni, families, local businesses to join us in our mission to keep Seneca great. We make it super easy to contribute online. So we'll also be pushing some info about that. So that's a good way to support our mission right after we can support our neighbors at Neighbors for Neighbors. 


00:08:09:14 - 00:08:35:22

Jeff Krakoff: So you had mentioned there are groups that I imagine are making significant donations, but I'm just curious, in past years, every little bit helps. It doesn't have to be a large amount, right? It's the power of a lot of people getting involved. What kinds of donations typically have you seen? Are people giving you a dollar or $5 or $10? And what are some of the bigger levels of donations that you've seen? 


00:08:36:02 - 00:09:36:12

Annie Mersing: Oh, gosh, yeah. You are completely correct about it. Doesn't matter what amount you give; we will take $0.50, we will take $1,000. We have had so much generosity over the years for this, especially for Neighbors for Neighbors, because it really is a heartwarming thing to do. There's no better way to share love for thy neighbor than to provide joy to a child in need. And I really think that's what's great about this group and our fundraiser. So, yeah, we've seen donations from just $5 to sometimes we'll get the generosity of a family that will donate $1,000. So we've seen it across the spectrum. And again, I think it lends itself to the diversity of our community where even if you're not fortunate to have a lot, if you can give just a little, it really helps us as a whole. So, yeah, it's it's a great thing to watch. 


00:09:36:29 - 00:09:55:16

Jeff Krakoff: Well, we look forward to seeing information about that as we get closer to November 1-5 and definitely look forward to hearing how things go and what the results are. So again, this was Annie Mersing, director of development for the Seneca Valley Foundation. Thanks so much for talking to us today. 

00:09:55:25 - 00:09:56:15

Annie Mersing: Thank you, Jeff.  

00:09:57:01 - 00:09:57:18

Jeff Krakoff: Take care.