Dragon Ladies and Spirit Boosters
The Dragon Shop has come of age turning 18 this year. DragonTales pays a visit.
Established by the Booster Club in 1991, the Dragon Shop has grown into an HKIS institution in its own right. Located near the high school cafeteria, it is more than a shop; it is a meeting place for school and community. At any given time you will find parents, students and teachers gathered within its walls.
“The shop is a microcosm of school life,” says Lisa Nisky, President of the Booster Club Board. “The candy jar stashed with free treats ensures a steady stream of children of all ages to the shop.” She adds there are few volunteer clubs in HKIS where you get to directly interact with students and parents from across all four divisions of the school. There is actually a waiting list of parents wanting to volunteer to help in the shop, which is staffed by about 40 parent volunteers at the moment.
All Dragon Shop volunteers are members of the Booster Club, as are all members of the HKIS community. “They are called Dragon Shop volunteers or as our aprons say, ‘Dragon Ladies’. On rare occasions, usually during the Back to School Sale in August, a few Dads sign up to be Dragon Men... and, without complaint, wear the Dragon Lady aprons,” smiles Lisa.
The genesis of the Dragon Shop can be traced back to Mary Lou Thompson, who, along with several other parents, foresaw a need to have a shop on campus. Mary Lou says the shop grew from the idea to provide school outfits for HKIS sports teams. “Prior to this, teams had either shown up without uniforms for inter-school competitions or each team designed their own kit, which did nothing to brand our teams or build school spirit,” she says.
“Individuals like Nancy Kroos, Sarah Rego and Elinetsa Pena designed the famous dragon logo. I got involved shortly after, and we decided to expand efforts to source uniforms for school teams while promoting team and school spirit,” says Mary Lou.
Soon a location was needed for this work. Hence the Dragon Shop was established and started selling “spirit” items in a closet-sized room adjacent to the high school cafeteria. Trade however, was brisk, and soon the shop expanded to its present size. Mary Lou says she remains grateful to the then High School Principal Jim Handrich for his early support for the shop.
Mary Lou designed the present shop (an expansion of the original closet), along with much of the merchandise. As the shop grew, she officially became the Dragon Shop’s Purchasing Manager, which was Mary Lou and family and continues to be the only paid position in the shop. In this capacity she played a vital role in extending the range of merchandise the shop sold.
“Over the years I added ‘special items’ to appeal to students, including shirts, sweatpants,
windbreakers, etc. We also designed a tee-shirt for each year’s basketball tournament,” she says.
Today the shop sells clothing for primary grades, middle school uniforms, and PE clothing for high and middle school students, as well as lunch boxes, caps, pens,and a variety of other merchandise. “All our profits are allocated through the Booster Club to athletic, club, and service activities in all four divisions. Last year these donations topped the HK$450,000
mark,” says Lisa Paterson, Booster Club’s VP, Communications.
The shop gets busiest in August as parents and students visit to collect their uniforms for the coming year. “This August we took about HK$800,000,” she says.
“Parent volunteers have to work additionally hard in the weeks before school commences, but it is fun. The shop is full of energy in those first weeks of a new school year. Families returning to school from long summer vacations often reconnect with friends in the Dragon Shop,” she says. “What’s more, often our volunteers are the first to greet new families arriving at HKIS. The welcome is always warm.”
As for Mary Lou, she retired after 14 years of service with the Dragon Shop in 2005. Now that her husband has retired, they split their time between Hong Kong, Malaysia and New York. “But Hong Kong is still home” she says.
“Both our daughters – Rachael ’95 and Hilary 2000 – attended HKIS and enjoy visiting Hong Kong whenever possible. They now live in New York. Rachael and her husband had a 7lb, 4oz baby boy named Oliver on October 17, 2008.”
Mary Lou says she is thrilled to be a Grandmother and little Oliver is a happy, healthy little boy who looks very much like Rachael did when she was a newborn. “Both Doug and I were lucky to be in New York last October at the time of Oliver’s birth and it was a real joy to be able to hold our grandchild.”
She says she now plans to spend more time in NYC with Oliver. “Simon, Rachael, Oliver and Hilary were in Hong Kong last Christmas and New Year. We spent time together in Hong Kong and visited good friends in Penang, where we lived prior to coming to Hong Kong in 1986.”
The Dragon Shop’s four Purchasing Managers:
When the Dragon Shop’s first Purchasing Manager MaryLou Thompson left, Lisa Nisky unofficially and un-salaried took on the role while retaining her Board position on the Booster Club.”I did the job while it was decided what the new Purchasing Manager’s role would be and while we looked for a replacement,” she says.
Parent Lisa Wallis was selected to take on the role next. Lisa Nisky says she did a fabulous job: “She practically lived in the shop and didn’t want to leave this position, but had to because her family moved to Shanghai.”
Chris Van Katwyk has been the Purchasing Manager since December 2008 and in a short amount of time has made amazing changes to the shop: “Organizing the inventory, creating new shop displays, giving the shop a ‘fresher’ look, sourcing and designing new products and creatively marketing the merchandise,” says Lisa.
Mom volunteers always enjoyed seeing their children and getting to know others…
Students would pop into the Dragon Shop to say hello and chat on their way to class. Over time, I got to know many of the students and their moms who volunteered in the shop.
Our volunteer moms are too many to mention by name, but many of them spent many hours with me organizing activities such as the Start of School Sales, the Christmas basketball Tournaments, and helping with bookkeeping and inventory.
More recently we started a candy jar in the shop which attracted more children in. For the mom’s who volunteered in the shop, they enjoyed seeing their children, and getting to know other children. Over time the Dragon Shop became a focal point for ‘what’s going on at school’ and our volunteer moms always enjoyed being in the middle of student activities. We also got to know the sports teams quite well, as we were very involved in supporting the teams and their events.
Mary Lou Thompson
Source: DragonTales Volume 11 Summer Edition 2009