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Guilford Elementary tries new, community approach to fundraising

On Saturday morning, the bus loop of Guilford Elementary School's parking lot was transformed into a massive community yard sale.

And a bake sale.

And a car wash.

It was all part of a fundraising day held for the first time at the school instead of more traditional fundraisers like selling magazines, wrapping paper, candles or pizza dough.

"Traditional fundraisers depended solely on parents to raise the funds or sell the stuff, and it's a lot of pressure," said Shannon Franks, PTA president at the Columbia school. "This pulls in the community to help support the school, and we've been doing really well with it. There's a ton of stuff gone from the yard sale, and cars have been rolling in all morning."

The event also included a toy and jewelry raffle and a food table with homemade baked goods, made by parents and teachers. More than two dozen tables were set up for the yard sale. Nearly all proceeds went directly to the school and PTA; if people did want to donate the money earned from their individual tables, the PTA charged $10 to have a table at the event.

Lori Hall, a PTA member who is part of the fundraising team, said they hoped to raise between $1,500 and $2,000 from the event.

"Our initiative is a joint venture with the parents, and it's a true parent-teacher association," she said. "We were looking at the majority of fundraising catalogs, and we realized our families were putting out more money to fund raise than what was getting raised. It didn't make sense. This way, we can all be involved."

So far, Franks said, others parents have responded positively to the idea of a fundraising day.

But the morning wasn't just a fundraising affair — it was a community event as well.

"This is our first move to reach out to the community, and I think it's going fantastically," Hall said. "There's a changing dynamic to our school, since we lost a lot of families to redistricting, and we wanted to do something different to get the community involved as well."

The school's neighbors started turning out for the event at 8 a.m., and a couple hundred people had come and gone within a few hours, Franks said. Getting the families out to interact with each other was a major factor in deciding to do the event.

"Last year, we were kind of out of sorts because of the redistricting," Franks said. "We had to find a way to rally. We wanted a creative way to pull in people from the community. ... Today, there's a lot more people meeting each other, meeting the teachers, and you just don't get that during the week."

Chris Pearman, a second-grade teacher manning a yard-sale table, said it was nice to meet families from other grade levels.

"It's great to see the moms and dad and extended families come out," she said. "Seeing the kids in a different, social context is always nice."

Dozens of students were on hand Saturday, helping sell cookies and lemonade, washing cars or just hanging out with their families.

Fourth-grader Kristina McKirahan, for example, spent the morning helping her dad wash cars.

"I've been out here since 6 a.m., helping set up," said Kristina, 9. "I was the only kid. My legs are tired, but I helped wash at least three cars. ... I'm just helping whoever needs help. I even bought an apple pie for my mom."

The fundraising day was much more fun, Kristina said, than trying to sell magazine subscriptions or candles to family members or neighbors.

"You could sell wrapping paper or do this, and I'm glad we did this," she said. "We're actually helping people who need their car washed."

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