For the second year in a row, the weather played a role in the Washington Irving Middle School students' celebration of a successful fund-raiser. This time, however, the seventh- and eighth-graders beat the storm.
Students pulled up to the door of the Austin Grill on Wednesday, Nov. 19, in style, aboard stretch limousines. The luxury rides and a meal were the students' reward for selling magazines. Assistant principal Harry Van Trees was keeping a close eye on the activity. He remembered last year’s ordeal.
"I think we canceled three times. I was looking at the Doppler [radar] today," he said. "It was still a little ways away."
With the magazine sales drive over, the students weren’t afraid to divulge their personal marketing strategies. Steven Znilek had his sales routine down to a science.
"When you’re walking up to the door, put the packet behind your back," he said.
Steven visited friends' homes when he used his marketing technique because of the county trend that frowns on door-to-door sales by students.
According to school spokesperson Mary Shaw, Fairfax County Public Schools adopted a regulation in 1995 that prohibited elementary students from going door to door to sell goods. The regulation, which was adopted with student safety in mind, limits middle- and high-school students to two schoolwide drives per year.
Anna Flasch, 11, didn’t have to go further than her family.
"Big family. I called all my family, and they ordered," she said.
Chris Airgood used his sister’s weak point.
"My sister is a huge dog fan, so she went right after the dogs [magazines]," he said.
Carol Roupas, grandmother of Nicole Locher, bought two magazines. She was on hand at Austin Grill, in the Old Keene Mill Shopping Center when the students piled out. She wasn't sure what magazines she had ordered.
"I’m pretty sure one’s on health," she said.
Vivian Babcock is a substitute teacher at Irving. She’s also a customer at Austin Grill, so she made all the arrangements with the management. Babcock lives in the area and has two children, Mary and Scott, who went to Washington Irving but are now at West Springfield High School. Babcock knows how important these fund-raisers are to the schools.
"I bought a beautiful poinsettia yesterday from crew at West Springfield," she said.
One of the restaurant staff, Vicky Pagan, remembered Babcock.
"She came to us. She loves her fajitas," Pagan said.
Austin Grill welcomed the students as well. They priced the meals at a discount for the students, and the food and limos were paid for out of the magazine money.
"We’re more than happy to have them come," Pagan said.
"It’s a great program. We do it each year with them," said Austin Grill manager George Silver.
Besides being open to community-oriented programs like the magazine drive, Austin Grill claims to be 100-percent wind-powered. It buys blocks of wind-generated power from a wind-power source. This is electricity is farmed from wind generators at a remote location. It was coincidental with the storm blowing into the area that day.