We know them as the organization of nice people who hand-deliver flowers and delicious cakes to homesick students craving some long-distance family affection on birthdays and special occasions. But the Parents’ Club is more than just a birthday-gift-delivery service — it boasts a long tradition of bringing Stanford parents together.
In 1924, a group of faculty wives, Stanford alumnae and mothers founded the Parents’ Club, originally called the Mothers’ Club. They established the three-fold mission that exists to this day “to bring together its members in social and intellectual exchange, to keep in close touch with the University life and, in all practicable ways, aid the University authorities in promoting the welfare of the student body.”
The Mothers’ Club established a speaker series and scholarship program, both of which still exist today. The Club also built a series of Rest Homes to nurse sick students who did not require hospitalization. These Rest Homes were given to the University once the Cowell Student Health Center — now Vaden Health Center — was completed in 1962.
In 1997 the Mothers’ Club changed its name to the Parents’ Club to include all parents in the organization. There are now around 1,000 international and 300 local members.
The Parents’ Club is active throughout the year, but especially active during New Student Orientation, Parents’ Weekend and Admit Weekend. Members of the Parents’ Club volunteer to coordinate speakers, facilitate check-in services, organize campus tours and sell merchandise to raise money for the scholarship fund. In addition, during Parents’ Weekend, the Parents’ Club holds the Entertainment Extravaganza, which showcases student artistic talent.
One of the more popular and well-known services is the delivery service through which parents can send their children cakes, cookies, brownies, flowers, balloons and plants. Cakes and balloons are popular for birthdays, but the recently added service of cookies and brownies have become quite popular, especially around exam time. President-Elect Marcia Hansen noted that deliveries overall tend to peak around Valentine’s Day and finals.
“Students really appreciate the deliveries,” said Vice President of Fundraising Maria Carano. “It’s not embarrassing for them at all. We are like an extension of their family, not just delivery people.”
“Our services allow parents who are not local to bring joy to their children,” added President Sheree Williams.
Katherine Scavo ’15 received a surprise from the Parents’ Club for her 19th birthday. Scavo’s mother ordered a cake and balloons online and had them delivered to her daughter’s room on her birthday.
“I was happy that my parents were able to celebrate my birthday with me from far away,” Scavo said. “It was a nice surprise because I wasn’t expecting anything.”
One aspect Scavo appreciated about the Parents’ Club is that the parents aren’t just strangers who drop off a cake. They add a personal touch to all of their deliveries.
“The parent who delivered the cake and balloons was really friendly and nice, which made the experience more personable,” Scavo said. “She was like my mom away from home. She was just as excited as my mom would be.”
According to the Parents’ Club website, the volunteers of the organization make over 1,000 deliveries each academic year.
The money made from the Parents’ Club delivery service, as well as the money raised through the active fundraising efforts of the members is used to support an endowed scholarship program. In the past 80 years, the Parents’ Club has granted over $1 million in scholarship funds to undergraduates at Stanford.
A notable change in the past few years is that the Parents’ Club has become increasingly tech-savvy. The Club has improved its Facebook image and updated its website. One huge achievement was the creation of an automated online ordering and purchasing system.
In addition to its gift delivery services, the Parents’ Club offers a mechanism for parents to meet other parents and develop friendships. Parents can find others who are in similar situations and engage in meaningful conversations.
“I like the people a lot,” Hansen said. “It’s an incredibly fun and smart group that centers on friendship and camaraderie.”
“The Parents’ Club is a very social club with monthly meetings and seasonal lunches,” Carano said.
President Williams noted that through online communication, parents who are in town for just a weekend are able to find a warm and welcoming community of other parents.
“The Parents’ Club exists and is able to survive because of the generosity of the volunteers and their love of Stanford,” Williams added.