Local Businesses Treat Teachers and Staff at Murray Middle and The Webster School to Holiday Surprises


St. Augustine businesses supporting the 12 days of Christmas Surprises for teachers at Murray and Webster


In a joined effort between the parent-teacher organizations at The Webster School and Murray Middle School as well as the Community Partnership School at Webster, the teachers and staff at both schools are being treated with 12 Days of Christmas Surprises by local businesses. 

Pamela Daniel varying exceptionalities specialist and Alex McKean art teacher at Webster
Pamela Daniel varying exceptionalities specialist and Alex McKean art teacher at Webster.

Alex McKean, the new art teacher at the Webster School, who also volunteers teaching art at the local tutoring organization RESET St. Augustine, is thankful for the surprises and treats. "It makes me feel that everything we do, all of the extra time that we put in that we don't get paid for, that it is worth it, because the families and the community are seeing all the hard work that we put into helping their children, and that definitely makes it worth it."

Brigid Barrett, the Flagler Health Plus Wellness Coordinator at Webster, Kierra Smith and Lindsay Watters, PTO President  at Webster
Brigid Barrett, the Flagler Health Plus wellness coordinator at Webster, Kierra Smith, Community Leadership Council member at the Community Partnership School at Webster and Lindsay Watters, PTO President at Webster.


Kierra Smith, a Murray parent and alumni of both Murray Middle School and the Webster School, is speerheading the campaign hoping to not only treat the hard-working teachers and staff at both schools, but also to encourage collaboration between the two schools and local businesses.

"I'm really enjoying the fact that Kierra is trying to organize gifts and thoughtful rewards to show appreciation for the teachers at Webster and at Murray," says Pamela Daniel, a varying exceptionalities specialist at Webster. "It is really thoughtful, and it is fun to see something different and find out something different every day that we are about to have." 

The 12 Days of Christmas Surprises began with everyone being treated to coffee from the newly-opened Wawa on 16, and since then teachers have been treated with everything from doughnuts to gift cards and treats being raffled off. 

The Tren Owner Natalya Axen St. Augustine Florida
Natalya Axen with her popular food truck The TREN on West King Street. 
Photo Courtesy of Kierra Smith

The T.R.E.N, a popular local food truck on West King Street in West Augustine donated 50 gift cards to the schools. Natalya Axen is a Webster and Murray alum, and so are her children. She explains how she wanted to support the teachers here in West Augustine, because of the risk they take educating our children in the midst of the Covid pandemic. 

"West Augustine means a lot to me. My family is from here, my grandma, my mom - it means everything to me, because so much have changed during the time that I've grown up.  Me being right here in the center of West Augustine, it has given me an advantage to be able to give back to the community and to let them know that we can change on this side, if it is just done in a way of being united."

The name the T.R.E.N. represent Axen's grandparents Thomas and Robin, her grandmother Evelyn and her mom Natalie, and the letters are in order from when they passed away.

When asked how the schools can include local businesses, Axen says: "When the schools do different events and festivals, they could involve the small businesses to show that we're in the community."

Murray Middle School employee Becky is excited about the Anastasia Bowling Lanes gift certificate. Photo Courtesy of Kierra Smith

Anastasia Bowling Lanes decided to provide a gift certificate for every teacher and staff member at each school, which turned out to be almost 200 gift certificates delivered and handed out, so everyone can enjoy a special outing this holiday season. 

Denise Waytovich from Anastasia Bowling Lanes
Denise Waytovich from Anastasia Bowling Lanes

"The teachers deserve," said Denise Waytovich from Anastasia Bowling Lanes, when asked why they decided to make such a generous donation. "I think they need to be rewarded in some way for all their hard work and efforts. We need to support our teachers."

Bulldog BYTE, the free afterschool program at R.J. Murray Middle School.
Kids at Bulldog BYTE, the free after-school program at R.J. Murray Middle School, looking up at drones flying above them. Photo Courtesy Allison Birbal

"As the Instructional STEM coach at R. J. Murray Middle School, I am in and out of classrooms on a daily basis and see how much work and dedication our teachers put into every lesson," says Allison Birbal. "We are so appreciative of all the donated goodies we have received this holiday season. From doughnuts and coffee in the morning to certificates to the bowling alley—it is so nice to feel support from local businesses."

Bulldog BYTE, the free afterschool program at R.J. Murray Middle School.
Students at the free Bulldog BYTE after-school program at R.J. Murray Middle School.

Birbal herself is a huge support to the West Augustine community, and the extra hours she puts in at the school do not go unnoticed among the grateful Murray parents. "I run a free after-school program called Bulldog BYTE, where we have a different STEM focus each day. Our students would not be able to experience activities like drones, coding, robotics, and gardening without support from our business partners and families. Bulldog teachers and staff strive to provide the very best for our kids, and it’s incredible that our community supports us."

Murray alum Willie Cooper Jr., a photographer at Memories by Marvin, treated someone at each school with a gift certificate to a free photo session.

"Webster and Murray are in my backyard. I live in West Augustine, I was born and raised there. I went to Murray Middle School, so there's nothing more genuine than for a person to give back to where he comes from."

When asked how our schools can include local businesses more, Cooper says, "I think the first thing is asking and being willing to go that extra yard, do the legwork and actually go ask, knock on doors. Ask, and don't be scared to get a no  most likely you're gonna get a yes. You never know until you ask, and I think that's a philosophy that the schools need to have. We're a community that's very prideful, sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes that's a bad thing. I think it's just that outreach of actually taking initiative to ask. The West Augustine community means a lot ... I went off to school, I was active in the military, and I came back. I reside in West Augustine, so it is very dear to me. My kids were born and raised here, and they will grow up in West Augustine."

Willie Cooper, Jr. Local St. Augustine Photographer at Memories by Marvin
Willie Cooper Jr., a local St. Augustine Photographer at Memories by Marvin with deep West Augustine roots. Photo Courtesy of Kierra Smith

Marvin Jenkins, the owner of Memories by Marvin is a Computer Operator at Tocoi Creek High School, but over the past 28 years he has worked at several schools in the county including at R.J. Murray Middle School. "To give back to the community you've lived and worked in is a blessing," says Jenkins, who has been doing photography for more than 20 years. "I truly believe in doing for others and reaching out to those, who are in need. We opened our studio about seven months ago, and it’s because of the community we still have our doors open. It’s easy to give back, when you partner with others like Willie Cooper Jr., who is very vested in his community and always lending a helping hand."

Brandon James Dean of Students at Murray Middle School with Alejandra Irizarry Family and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Webster School
Brandon James dean of students at Murray Middle School with Alejandra Irizarry, the family and community engagement coordinator at the Webster School through the Community Partnership School. 

"I feel like it is very good and positive, being from St. Augustine, being born and raised here, and now that I am back professionally, helping out at the schools and teaching at the schools. I think it is good, when our community comes together, because it is what's best for our kids," says Brandon James, a UF Hall of Fame inductee, who is the dean of students at Murray Middle School. "At the end of the day, as long as our community is doing something to push our kids forward and give them a better opportunity, that's what it's all about. The teachers are the ones feeding all the knowledge into our kids."

The Donut Experiment on King Street in downtown St. Augustine donated doughnuts and a hot chocolate bar on separate days to teachers and staff at each school. When asked, why the Donut Experiment wanted to support the teachers and staff at Webster and Murray, Joe Spivey owner of the store said, "I always have. They're title 1 schools, and we appreciate what they do. I kind of started the business out with that idea in mind, and we really try to give back, where it tends to make sense. We wanted to show the teachers some appreciation for what they've been through the last couple of years."

Joe Spivey co-owner of the Donut Experiment St. Augustine Florida
Joe Spivey co-owner of the Donut Experiment on King Street in downtown St. Augustine Florida.  Photo Courtesy of Kierra Smith.

Pre-covid, The Donut Experiment hosted a field trip from the Webster School, where the students got to see how the business worked, what it takes to run the business and learn about how it all started to give them a different perspective on what it is like to be a business owner. "I have another business, where I work in the IT industry, so I've gotten a chance over the last ten years to visit a lot of different companies, and it is not just the donut shop," says Spivey. "We try to push the kids into STEM, but I feel like we do need to integrate more with businesses. If I'd gotten a chance to go out and meet entrepeneurs, I probably wouldn't have worked for somebody for so long. They don't teach that entrepreneurial spirit. There are a lot of amazing ways for people to integrate. Most of the time it is just about asking the CEO of these different businesses: how do you want to do it? How do you want to integrate with the education of these kids? Most of them are very welcoming of the idea from my experience." 


Wayland Baker from the Kings Chair Barber Club on West King in West Augustine.
Wayland Baker from the Kings Chair Barber Club on West King Street in West Augustine.

"I believe in giving back. I don't believe in just taking and taking from the community, I believe you should give back," says Wayland Baker from the Kings Chair Barber Club on West King Street in West Augustine. "Without the community there is no success."

Baker is a Murray alum, and his daughter currently attends the school. "It means support," says Baker, when asked what the West Augustine community means to him. "They are the reason, why I am the barber I am today. I believe in giving back, it is not always about taking from my community, it is about giving back to the community too. The community shows you they care by supporting your business, you show them you care by giving back."

When it comes to community collaboration with the schools, Baker gets excited. "I love the fact that you're doing this period. As much as businesses can be involved. I have a lot of those kids that come through in my shop ... and I believe the more they see you, the more they interact with you, and the more positive things in their lives, the more chances they have to become a productive person in society."

Murphy Leathers and Lindsay Leathers at Murf's To Go in St. Augustine Florida
Murphy and Lindsay Leathers at Murf's ToGo in St. Augustine Florida

Murf's Homestyle ToGo is a new addition to West Augustine located on Mackey Ln. behind Sweet City Cupcakes on the corner of West King Street and Pellicer Ln., but Murphy Leathers went to both the Webster School and Murray Middle School. Murf's Homestyle ToGo provided the schools with gift certificates for 10 free meals. "We want to do what we can for our local community," says Lindsay Murphy. "We are firm believers in helping out our community."

Webster teacher Meredith Murr with Caps on the Water manager Blaze
Webster teacher Meredith Murr with Caps on the Water manager Blaze.

Manager Blaze at Caps on the Water in Vilano is a Murray Middle School graduate, and the waterfront restaurant donated four gift cards to the schools to raffle off.


Murray Middle School teacher Brennan Gagnon at his vert ramp
Murray Middle School teacher Brennan Gagnon at his vert ramp in West Augustine. 

"It makes me feel appreciated, super noticed, and it makes me feel grateful too that so many people care to reach out," says Brennan Gagnon, a Murray Middle School math teacher, who lives in West Augustine. Brennan can often be spotted in the neighborhood being pulled by his dog while skateboarding, and his passion for skateboarding has led to a huge vert ramp in his backyard, which is known as the Datil Pepper Vert Ramp. At certain times, he opens up the ramp to kids in the community, where he gives tips, and for those who are beginners, he even has gear they can borrow. Anyone interested in having their kids give the vert ramp a try can reach out through the Datil Pepper Vert Ramp Instagram page.

"I received a gift card to the T.R.E.N. for $10 off my next purchase, and that excites me, because I eat there pretty often. I really love it, and my wife hasn't eaten there yet, but she's wanted to go, so this gives us an excuse to go. It's one of my favorites."

Gagnon also encourages the collaboration between the two schools as well as between the schools and the community. "I think it would be really interesting to do an after-school spirit day ... with the T.R.E.N., or the Cheesewheel or any of the places on West King Street," says Gagnon, when asked how the schools can collaborate with the local businesses.

While all businesses provided both schools with the same gifts, treats and gift certificates, the PTO at each school raffled these off in ways that worked best for their schools.

"It is amazing to be able to share surprises with the teachers. We've been talking about being generous, and the spirit of generosity and encouraging that in our kids, so to be able to give that back to our teachers from our community has been incredible," says Webster Principal Bethany Groves, "It has certainly been an encouragement that they've needed to bring the holiday energy and get through to the holidays and give their very best to the students. We are incredibly thankful to give and also to receive. I love the fact that this is Murray and Webster together. We are very closely tied together, and truthfully, I believe that the closer we are tied together, the stronger we both become. It is all for the West Side."


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If you are a parent interested in helping out in any way, or if you are a business interested in donating to any of the schools, please contact the Murray PTO or the Webster PTO

If you are interested in volunteering, helping out or collaborating with the free after-school program at Murray Middle School, please reach out to Mrs. Birbal at Bulldog Byte on Instagram. Don't have an Instagram account? Email westaugustinenewsconnection@gmail.com, and we will connect you.


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These local businesses donated food, gifts, gift cards or services to teachers and staff at The Webster School and Murray Middle School as a part of the 12 Days of Christmas Surprises. Please help us support them by shopping at their businesses, following them on social media and thank them for the support of our schools.


West Augustine Businesses Supporting our Teachers and Staff at Webster and Murray for the 12 Days of Christmas Surprises:


The T.R.E.N.

863 West King Street

St. Augustine, FL

904-293-6459

The Tren Facebook Group

The Tren on Instagram


Willie Cooper Photography at Memories by Marvin

Memories by Marvin

Willie Cooper Photography on Instagram


The King's Chair Barber Club

278 West King Street

St. Augustine, FL

904 -825- 2824

The King's Chair Barber Club 

The King's Chair Barber Club on Instagram


Murf's Homestyle ToGo 

6 Mackey Ln.

St. Augustin, FL

904-500-6873

Murf's Homestyle ToGo 

Murf's Homestyle ToGo on Facebook


St. Augustine Businesses Supporting our Teachers and Staff at Webster and Murray for the 12 Days of Christmas Surprises:

Anastasia Bowling Lanes 

3245 A1A S

St. Augustine, FL 

904-471-3565

Anastasia Bowling Lanes 

Anastasia Bowling Lanes on Instagram


The Donut Experiment

117 King Street

St. Augustine,  FL

904-342-2234

The Donut Experiment

The Donut Experiment on Facebook


Old City Subs

3440 US Highway 1 

and

3501 N Ponce de Leon Blvd

St. Augustine, FL 

Old City Subs

Old City Subs on Facebook


Caps on the Water

4325 Myrtle Street, 

St. Augustine. FL

Caps on the Water

Caps on the Water on Instagram


St. Auggies Pizza

113 1/3 King Street,

St. Augustine, FL

904-436-5998

St. Auggies Pizza

St. Auggies Pizza on Facebook


All About Water Pressure Washing

904-826-5355

All About Water Pressure Washing in St. Augustine

All About Water Pressure Washing on Facebook


Salon Honey and Sage

389 Paseo Reyes Dr., 

St. Augustine, FL 

Salon Honey and Sage

Salon Honey and Sage on Instagram


The Reef Restaurant

4100 Coastal Hwy 

St. Augustine, FL

904-824-8008

The Reef Restaurant

The Reef Restaurant on Facebook


Whetstone Chocolates

139 King Street,

St. Augustine, FL 

904-217-0275

Whetstone Chocolates

Whetstone Chocolates on Facebook


Metro Diner

1000 S Ponce de Leon Blvd.

St. Augustine, FL

Metro Diner St. Augustine

Metro Diner St. Augustine on Facebook


Culver's of St. Augustine

3433 US Highway 1,

St. Augustine, FL

904-217-4859

Culver's St. Augustine

Culver's of St. Augustine on Facebook


Wawa

SR 16 and Inman Rd., 

St. Augustine, FL

Wawa


Chick-fil-A

1752 US Highway 1 S,

St. Augustine, FL

&

SR 16 and Inman Rd

St. Augustine, FL

Chick-fil-A St. Augustine

Chick-fil-A St. Augustine on Facebook


Antoinette's Bath House

111 King Street, 

St. Augustine, FL

904-770-7707

Antoinette's Bath House

Antoinette's Bath House on Facebook



Cantina Louie

1900 US Highway 1

St. Augustine, FL 

904-770-2608

Cantina Louie St. Augustine

Cantina Louie St. Augustine on Facebook


One Twenty Three Burger House

123 King Street, 

St. Augustine 

904-687-2790

One Twenty Three Burger House

One Twenty Three Burger House on Facebook


Buffalo Wild Wings

318 SR 12

St. Augustine, FL

904-697-3495

Buffalo Wild Wings St. Augustine 

Buffalo Wild Wings St. Augustine on Facebook


Bantam Chef St. Augustine

34 Granada Street, 

St. Augustine, FL 

904-770-2990

Bantam Chef St. Augustine

Bantam Chef St. Augustine on Facebook


The Alligator Farm 

999 Anastasia Blvd.

St. Augustine, FL 

The Alligator Farm St. Augustine 

The Alligator Farm St. Augustine on Facebook



Jacksonville Businesses Supporting the Teachers and Staff at Webster and Murray for the 12 Days of Christmas Surprises:


Axe Champs

1034 Edgewood Avenue S,

Jacksonville, FL 

904-404-6005

Axe Champs Axe Throwing Venue

Axe Champs Axe Throwing Venue on Facebook


River & Post Restaurant

1000 Riverside Ave,

Jacksonville, FL

904-575-2366

River and Post Jacksonville

River & Post Restaurant on Facebook



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