The sun had just risen last Friday when Baldwinite Van White walked through the doors of Lenox Elementary School. He wasn’t there to drop off his children, though — they had moved on from Lenox three years ago.
White and more than 50 other men were getting ready to make pancakes for all of the kindergartners to fifth- graders at the school’s 30th annual Brotherhood Pancake Breakfast. The event, White said, is about more than flapjacks and maple syrup. “It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “There’s a connection here, and I love the men here.”
Every year, dozens of fathers, grandfathers and uncles of current and former Lenox students return to the school for the breakfast to help set the tables, make the pancakes and serve the students. Craig Miller said he had attended every year since 2000, and liked seeing the joy on not only the children’s faces, but the men’s as well.
“It’s an absolutely great thing to see,” Miller said. “To see so many men coming back to help out, it’s an amazing sight.”
Gary Griggs, a former Lenox principal, started the breakfast in 1990 as a way to get more men involved in the school community. According to White and others who took part, fathers seldom got involved in after-school activities. “They would just drop off their students at school,” White said, “and that was it.”
Griggs, addressing the school from his home in Georgia via Skype, said he couldn’t believe how successful the breakfast has been over the last three decades. “It’s unimaginable to think, 30 years later, we would have men coming in on a Friday morning,” he said. “That is so inspirational.”
Many of the participants have become even more involved in the school community. George Sibéron said the breakfast inspired him to join the PTA.
White said he, too, was introduced to the group by another father, who told him about the breakfast 12 years ago. “I didn’t know how big it was,” he said, “I came with my spatula and I was ready. And once I saw all the fathers involved, I just got hooked.”
White served as chairman of the event’s organizing committee for four years before his children moved on to middle school.
He admitted being afraid that when he passed the torch, the event would falter.
The opposite happened.
“It got even bigger,” he said, “and even more folks came out.” There were 15 new fathers at this year’s event, according to White. The Baldwin community, too, has become more engaged.
Area eateries and businesses have donated supplies for the annual breakfast, including syrup, cups, juice and more.
Asheena Baez, Lenox’s first-year principal, said the event has an effect on the children, too. Seeing the men cooking and serving breakfast, she said, students get an idea of what it means to be a global citizen, or someone who understands his place in the world.
“We wanted our children to get an opportunity to understand what service really looks like,” said Baez. “These are strong men in our community who are doing amazing things.”
Miller said it would have a particularly strong impact on the men’s daughters. “This is going to give them an idea of what to look for in a husband,” he told his fellow volunteers before the breakfast began.
“Don’t be rushing my baby girl,” one father responded as others laughed. “She’s not ready for that.”
Baez said she was looking forward to many more breakfasts. “This is an event that has transcended what we see,” she said.