The school year may be winding down, but fundraising is just starting to heat up for Hatboro-Horsham schools.
No, kids aren’t being asked to sell candy bars during summer break. Ready-to-eat pizzas are out too. In fact, this initiative, put forth by each of the elementary and middle school’s home and school associations doesn’t require door-to-door sales, or even require loved ones to reach into their wallets.
Diana Starr, Simmons Elementary Home and School Association incentives chairwoman, likens it as a way to “earn cash from your trash.”
“Last year our school earned close to $4,000 for little tiny squares,” Starr said of the Box Tops for Education program, which awards school 10 cents for coupons found on various General Mills products, including cereal. “Most fundraisers you have to put money into it. This costs the parents nothing. It’s stuff you already have in your pantry.”
At Simmons, classroom contests during the fall and spring award pizza parties and ice cream parties to the top Box Tops collectors, providing kids with an added incentive to clip and bring in those bits of cardboard.
Then, twice a year, representatives from each of the school’s Home and School Associations count, pack up and mail off thousands of Box Tops for processing. General Mills, in turn, sends out checks.
At Simmons, the funds help cover school assemblies and playground equipment – including jump ropes and balls - Starr said.
At Keith Valley Middle School, the Box Tops collection goes a long way toward funding the eighth-grade picnic, according to Jane Panetta, who resurrected the program three years ago and spends her TV-watching time clipping and counting Box Tops. For the last submission, Panetta said 6,850 coupons were submitted, netting the school $702.70.
“It’s found money,” Panetta said. “It’s like finding a dime on the sidewalk, except you’re finding it on your cereal box.”
At a time when school budgets are tight and growing increasingly tighter, the Box Tops collection helps provide extras that otherwise would not be available, according to Bob Reichert, the district’s Director of Business Affairs.
“Although the funds raised by the Home and Schools do not directly offset budgeted expenditures, their efforts do provide funding for additional resources and equipment that help enhance our educational program, but would otherwise not be budgeted for,” Reichert said.
Since 1996, the Box Tops For Education program has provided more than $400 million to the nation's schools, according to the Box Tops Web site. In addition to clipping labels from participating food products, the program awards bonus points for online purchases made here at more than 175 participating retailers, including Old Navy, Sears, Walmart, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble.
Beckie Vuk, Blair Mill’s Home and School Association president, said the school’s most recent $1,100 Box Tops check would cover the purchase of at least two netbooks at roughly $500 apiece. Other plans for the coming year include benches at $300 each and a $2,000 standalone climber for the playground.
“We try to focus on larger items to take off the pressure from the school,” Vuk said. “If we can help out with the technology, they can buy hula hoops.”
Part of the school’s success, Vuk said, revolves around the encouragement for students to collect all summer.
“Our collection bin usually is overflowing by the end of September,” she said.
The Home and School Association at Pennypack Elementary uses its $300 to $500 in annual Box Tops money to cover academically based assemblies, according to Cheryl Lastowka of the HSA.
Best of all, according to Starr, collection doesn’t have to cease because district residents no longer have school-aged children. Collection boxes are available at each of the district’s elementary schools and middle school, as well as the Horsham Township Library.
“Give them to your neighbor. Give them to your grandchild,” Starr said. “Your school will earn cash from your trash.”