Think twice before downing that refreshing Capri Sun juice drink and then tossing away the pouch – you could be throwing away cash for your child’s school.
In the Genoa School District, that cash amassed through a variety of fundraising projects will help go toward building a greenhouse behind Genoa Elementary in the coming year.
Tough economic times have caused massive belt tightening on school budgets nationwide in recent years. The Genoa Elementary Parent Teacher Organization has responded by stepping up its assistance, and that means getting creative about ways to raise cash to ease the burden and sponsoring projects that leave a lasting imprint on the school system.
An annual school carnival brings in more than $10,000 each year. Market Days are also productive, as are company collection projects conducted throughout the year. A Capri Sun pouch collection is one of the newest ways to make money for the schools.
The effects are actually two-prong, said PTO President Brandi Baez. “Kids are learning about recycling and the school earns some money for it,” she said.
The experience reaches beyond the school campus. “We even have the kids trained to bring in their pouches after a weekend birthday party. You see them coming to school with their bags full of pouches,” she said.
Baez admits not all the collections are big money makers; it’s the combination of the efforts that make their work worthwhile.
“When you find a penny, it doesn’t seem like much. But when you put it with a bunch of other pennies it adds up,” she said.
“I have a great bunch of moms who work on all these projects – we couldn’t do it without them. I have one mom who handles the Capri Sun packets and she’s just wonderful. Those things can get really sticky,” Baez said.
A popular and longstanding fundraiser is the Campbell’s Soup label collection, which has had many moms divvying up labels among the kids. Class competition is fierce when prizes like pizza parties and ice cream treats are up for grabs among students.
The Genoa PTO just recently rekindled its soup label collection. The organization had been concentrating on other programs that offered cash rebates such as Box Tops for Education associated with food products and receipt collections such as those sponsored by Miller’s New Market.
Campbell’s limits its rewards to catalogued items they provide. The offerings used to be things like gym equipment and general classroom supplies. Selection now, however, has expanded to include more technical supplies such as flat screen televisions, copy machines, laminators and other computer equipment that helps relieve the school budget, Baez noted.
The school has amassed about 15,000 points so far. Members will leaf through a catalog of products to find supplies but have been eyeing such items as an iPod touch, Baez said. The school was already able to get one last year with proceeds from the fall gift wrap sale.
The ultimate goal is to bring all the fundraising together to better the school environment.
“The Genoa PTO is an entity unto itself,” said Genoa Schools Treasurer Bill Nye. The members handle their program, run their projects and keep their own books while working hand-in-hand with the school staff to assess needs.
Sometime during the school year, the PTO presents a donation check to the school system earmarked for special projects, he said.
Last year, the group’s $23,000 donation funded a new shelter house, provided teacher name plates outside classroom doors in the new elementary building and paid for field trips at every grade level.
The group had hoped to build a greenhouse with the last donation but fell short of completing that goal, Baez said, so focus will turn to the greenhouse construction in the new school year.
The greenhouse will not only provide food for the cafeteria but will allow students and teachers to merge classroom and hands-on learning.
“I think this will really help with the STEM learning at the school. That’s programs involving science, technology, engineering and math,” said Baez, who is a science teacher in the Fremont School System. “We really need to push more, integrate cross-curriculums.”
Composting and other environmental projects will also heighten the experience.
Eventually, Baez would like to see the high school FFA students share their knowledge with the youngsters. The high school students already run their own plant greenhouse through the school organization.
“We’re going to try to involve the FFA. I think it’s a good thing,” Baez said.