Buttoning up brings big bucks to schools

We buttoned the top button of every shirt and jacket, and made sure they were hung in the same direction with each hanger facing inward. Then we straightened the books and vacuumed the rugs.  I  spent two hours on Monday Jan. 2 helping a small crew of volunteers with these clean-up chores at the PTA Thrift Shop at Cole Park in Northern Chatham. The same kind of chores my wife wishes I paid more attention to at home.

Dee and I were volunteering at the behest of my daughter, Emily Tinervin, the North Chatham Elementary PTA Thrift Shop Representative.  It’s her job to recruit volunteers. What I did not know was that the profits earned at the  Chatham PTA Thrift Shops in Pittsboro, Siler City and Cole Park are divided among the county’s public school classes using a formula where 60% of the funds are allocated based on volunteer hours (the remainder is divided equally among the schools).  So, there is a strong incentive to  recruit volunteers from one’s school.

Our crew also included Emily, North Chatham Kindergarten teacher Stephanie Orchard-Hays, and parents Tabatha Turner and Karen Howard.  Tabatha’s son, Morgan, and our granddaughter, Ryan, are both in Ms. Orchard-Hays’ class. So her class got a total of 10 hours of credit from 5 volunteers. Ms. Howard, a candidate for the school board from District One and Vice-President of the Margaret Pollard Middle School PTA, was volunteering for her son’s third grade class at North Chatham, taught by Ms. Vicki Johnston.  Karen, who volunteers on a regular basis, has divided her hours among North Chatham, Pollard and Northwood, where her four boys attend school. She told me she will be volunteering her next set of hours for the Exceptional Children’s programs.

Clearly these incentives work. My two volunteer hours are a tiny drop in the bucket of the nearly 52,000 hours contributed by volunteers last year, as of October 2011. In addition to  the kinds of chores we did,  volunteers may also pick up donations, deliver large items to customers,  empty drop  boxes, wash laundry, organize fashion shows and parade floats. Some volunteers contribute specialized services such as electrical, plumbing, welding, heating and air conditioning.   Clearly, the 30 paid employees of the non-profit Chatham PTA Shops could not provide our county schools with significant extra funding without the help of so many volunteers.

This sustainable business also provides a valuable and inexpensive service for Chatham residents of all income levels.  At the end of my volunteer duty, I purchased three quality sports coats for less than ten dollars combined.

The bottom line for our public schools is even more remarkable. Last year the PTA Thrift Shops provided about $462,000 to our schools, as of October. Since it was founded in 1983, it has provided more than $6 million to public education in Chatham.

If you would like to volunteer, you check with your local PTA . And if you’d like to volunteer for North Chatham Elementary, you may contact Emily at emilytinervin@yahoo.com.  For more information: PTA Thrift Shop.

–Jeff Starkweather

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