Higher Math: Student Fund Raising Aids School Budgets

By Carolyn Bower Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

Higher Math: Student Fund Raising Aids School Budgets


Carolyn Bower Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Just days after school started this year, schoolchildren brought home order forms for candy, gift wrap and frozen pizza.

They knocked on neighbors' doors, they phoned relatives, and, when all else failed, they turned to parents, who sometimes sold the stuff to friends or colleagues at work.

The school-age sales force makes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in the St. Louis area to benefit public, private and parochial schools. More than half the gross sales go to the fund-raising companies, making for a multibillion-dollar business nationwide. What stays with the schools has paid for computers, software, carpet, curtains, air conditioners, playground equipment, a new science lab, teacher training, substitute teachers, field trips, visits from writers, musicians and artists, band trips, band instruments, classroom supplies, scholarships, special parties and even part of a copying machine. "A lot of folks don't understand that the money we raise goes for pretty basic stuff," said Kathy Doellefeld-Clancy, president of the parent organization at Avery Elementary School in Webster Groves. Parent organizations usually sponsor the fund raising. "It should not be the responsibility of kids at age 7, 8 and 9 to sell wrapping paper so the school can have a copy machine, but until the tax base or funding for schools changes, we have to find ways to supplement the school budget," she said. Two years ago, school groups and nonprofit organizations raised more than $2 billion from the sales, said Russell Lemieux, executive director of the Association of Fund Raisers & Direct Sellers, based in Atlanta. Fund-raising companies netted about $2.5 billion from the sales, he said. The association has grown to about 700 companies from 75 companies eigh t years ago. Lemieux estimates that 1,500 to 2,000 companies sell fund-raising items. "Fund raising is growing nationally because virtually every school is in need of all the money it can get," Lemieux said. Students at Barrington Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District took home fund-raising brochures the second day of school, said Linda Levins, who organizes fund raising for the school's parent-teacher association. "We started the first week of school to get a head start on parochial s chools and other schools," she said. Barrington students sell pizzas and food. Last year, students made $11,484 that helped pay for school supplies, landscaping, field day activities and trips for parent-teacher representatives to a national convention. Students are pulled from class to hear a sales pitch on how to sell the frozen items. The six top sellers get a limousine ride and lunch. They get cash prizes ranging from $20 to $100. They get their names entered in a drawing for a bicycle. The top-selling class attends a pizza party, even if some of the students sold nothing. Fifth-grader A Veteran Patrick O'Brien, a fifth-grader at Mason Ridge Elementary School in west St. Louis County, has been selling candy and gift wrap since he was in the first grade. This fall, he sold to relatives and to his mother's friends who no longer have children in elementary school. Patrick sold 16 items, enough for prizes such as a gumball machine, book light or basketball game but not enough for a telephone. Last year, fund raising brought in $36,000, part of which paid to build a science lab. Money raised in previous years has helped buy classroom supplies, violins and computer software or paid to send children to musical concerts. …

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