Just about every day during the school year, you can find Barbara Eubank cruising the hallways of her children’s elementary school, clutching notebooks stuffed with envelopes of grocery store cash register tapes, cereal box tops and soup can labels.
Eubank is a mother of two, a longtime neighborhood resident and a volunteer in the school’s PTA program.
But teachers, students and parents all know her by an affectionate nickname: the Coupon Queen.
It started out so harmlessly.
One day, Eubank called her PTA president to become a regular, run-of-the mill volunteer charged with managing the school’s alternative fund-raising programs. Today, she organizes a myriad of financial donations for Lakewood Elementary, from corporate gifts to collecting box tops, thus earning her nickname.
“It takes one person who will say, ‘I don’t mind managing the funds,’” Eubank says.
“The funds and equipment are all available to schools if the school can find someone to manage it.”
A New Way to Raise Money
Volunteers throughout our neighborhood are discovering that fundraising for worthy causes — usually thought of in terms of banquets, golf tournaments, candy sales and silent auctions — can be as easy as doing the kinds of things that most of us do every day, such as running into the grocery store to pick up milk and bread, shopping for new kitchen towels, or phoning a grandmother in Arizona.
These days, corporations, retailers and grocers have made donating to a worthy cause as easy as buying a box of corn flakes. With programs ranging from collecting soup can labels to swiping a card at the check-out counter, it’s not hard for anyone to find the means to support a local school, church or nonprofit organization.
“It hasn’t been difficult,” Eubank says. “I don’t have to ask for anything or solicit funds. Most everything I need is in my kitchen.”
It didn’t take much for Eubank to learn various ways funds and equipment can be earned. Her son told her about General Mills’ Box Tops for Education: He read about the program on his cereal box. She learned of other programs from friends or the companies themselves.
In just over a year, Eubank has collected corporate gifts from Tom Thumb, Albertson’s, Target, AT&T, General Mills, Minyard Food Stores, Nickel Ranch, Campbell Soups and Wolf Camera, just to name a few.
As part of her volunteer job with the PTA, Eubank encourages parents and teachers to register Lakewood Elementary as a recipient with companies offering fund-raising programs. Signing up is as easy as making a phone call, filling out a postcard-sized form, or repeating an account number.
So far, she says, the school has earned a significant amount in cash gifts, as well as software and audio-visual equipment.
Donation programs work in various ways. Usually, a percentage of a purchase is paid to the organization, or the organization accrues points based on purchase amounts. For example, General Mills contributes 10 to 15 cents per returned box top. A long distance phone call with AT&T can earn points toward school equipment. A bag of groceries at Albertson’s or Tom Thumb generates a donation for a percentage of the purchase amount.
There’s also a long list of local businesses providing these services. It just takes someone involved with an organization to initiate the process.
Every major grocer in the Dallas area offers a program designed to boost store sales and help generate funds for neighborhood groups. As a result, every time you visit the grocery store, you can be donating funds to a neighborhood organization.
For example, when a neighborhood organization signs up for the Tom Thumb Good Neighbor Program, an account number is assigned to the organization. Shoppers can then use the account number, in conjunction with a Reward card also issued by Tom Thumb, to generate credit for the organization every time they buy groceries.
To activate the Reward card account number, each customer simply tells a cashier the organization’s number before any groceries are scanned. From that point on, every time the Reward card is used, funds accumulate for the organization. Tom Thumb totals the purchases and sends a check directly to the organization for 1 percent of total sales every quarter.
“It’s a passive way to create some income,” says Dena Jones, president of Friends of the Library. “We’ve been using it since last spring. Every little bit helps.”
Friends of the Library board members suggested using the Reward card program to help support library programs. So far, the group receives $200-$400 quarterly, which goes toward purchasing books, funding the Mayor’s Summer Reading Challenge, and supporting other general programs benefiting the Dallas Public Library system.
Tom Thumb now makes most of its community contributions through the Good Neighbor Program, a grocery store spokesman says.
But the grocer still offers Tom Thumb Bucks, a program that involves groups purchasing and then re-selling at a higher price vouchers good for groceries at Tom Thumb.
Neighborhood Boy Scout Troop 890 has been selling Tom Thumb Bucks to parents and neighbors for more than 10 years. The Bucks can be used as cash at any Tom Thumb store. The troop receives a monthly check for a percentage of the redeemed Bucks.
“We usually receive in excess of $1,000 a year,” says James Shepherd, Boy Scout Troop leader.
Troop 890 consists of 175 boys ranging in ages from 11-17. Money earned from Tom Thumb Bucks finances the troop’s high-adventure activities, such as mountain climbing in Colorado or hiking the Grand Canyon, but the money also goes toward more general needs.
“We have a lot of boys to feed,” Shepherd says. “We meet once a week. That’s a lot of food to buy.”
Albertson’s Community Partner Card assists youth programs such as scouting groups, schools, boys and girls clubs, and church youth organizations. At the end of the quarter, each organization can receive a rebate up to $1,800.
The rebate, which is based on a floating percentage of Albertson’s purchase amounts, ranges from 2 to 4.5 percent. Purchase amounts from each card member are accumulated on the organization’s account. Amounts from $50,000-$60,000 receive 4.5 percent, up to $1,800 per quarter.
“It is so simple and so easy,” says James Oliver, general merchandise manager at Albertson’s.
“A family of four spends an average of $150 every week. If only 50 families shop, the organization can easily reach $1,800.”
In the past quarter, Albertson’s says five schools in the Dallas area received $1,800, and eight more earned $1,000.
The Community Partner Card works for purchases at any Albertson’s nationally, so even out-of-town friends and family can help raise funds for neighborhood organizations.
Share and Share Alike
Lake Highlands Elementary participates in Kroger’s Share Card program. The Share Card also works on a percentage basis. Organizations can apply for the Share Card at any Kroger location. When the cards are used, 1 percent of the purchase amount is returned to the organization.
“It’s really easy,” says Beth Hanks, PTA president for Lake Highlands Elementary. “Kroger actually gives us a card with our school’s name on it. The cashier just scans the card with the purchase.”
Lake Highlands Elementary has collected close to $4,000 since 1998 using Kroger’s Share Card, Hanks says.
The Share Card isn’t limited to schools or youth-oriented organizations, but is available to a variety of nonprofit groups.
“Churches use it, schools use it, some companies use it in support of an adopted nonprofit group. Animal shelters can even use it,” says Leslie Wharton, a customer service representative at Kroger.
“The redeem rate doesn’t add anything to the bill. The percentage comes directly out of the order.”
Kroger developed the Share Card in 1997. Since that time, Kroger has contributed more than $1 million to participating charities in the Dallas area.
Computers for Kids
If a school is looking for equipment donations, Minyard Food Stores has an annual program that offers variety and choice. Minyard developed the “Computers for Kids … And More” program nine years ago. The program, which runs from late August through March, is based on collecting grocery store receipts.
When a school registers for the program, it receives an information packet that includes the application form, step-by-step guidelines, tip sheet for increasing participation, and a catalog of merchandise to choose from.
At the end of the program, the school tallies its receipts, bundles them together, fills out a deposit form, and returns them to the store. Then, the school can choose from any merchandise in the catalog, ranging from soccer balls and baseballs to computers and VCRs.
“We offer a wide variety of things to choose from … Macintosh, IBM and a myriad of software,” says Sammey Matson of Minyard Food Stores.
“We even offer a total gym. Usually, we average donating about $250,000 in school equipment a year.”
About 400 schools participate in “Computers for Kids … And More” each year. Information packets can be found at any of the store’s chains — Minyard, Sac ’n Save and Carnival.
Another source for equipment and software is Discovery Toys’ Discovery Quests. Bobbie Collins, educational consultant for Discovery Quests, organizes software fairs and toy-raisers for schools, daycares, churches, hospitals and youth organizations.
Collins offers everything from software to books to toys. A software fair or toy-raiser is similar to a Tupperware party. For everything that is purchased, the host organization receives credits good for free product. The credit also can be converted to cash.
“Usually, they ask for the free product,” Collins says. “The schools usually want software and use it as a supplement to DISD software. But the books are popular, also.”
Collins works with several schools, including White Rock Montessori, Hexter Elementary and Lakewood Elementary. She has even organized a toy-raiser for United Methodist Developmental Learning Center in Lakewood.
Target on Fundraising
Even a credit card can be put to good use.
Target began a program that is self-explanatory — “School Fundraising Made Simple.” The program benefits K-12 schools by returning 1 percent of Target credit card purchases to the customer’s designated school.
Target customers can choose a school when they apply for a Target Guest Card or call an 800 number if they already are Target Guest Cardholders.
Since Target began “School Fund-raising Made Simple,” more than $800,000 has been donated to participating schools.
Charity Starts at Home
Donating doesn’t have to be as impersonal as writing a check to a national cause, but can start grassroots in our own backyard. With so many choices and so much to gain, the community as a whole benefits. Schools, churches and nonprofits are able to earn needed equipment and funds. Individuals can donate to a worthy cause and know they are supporting their community. And local businesses become active members in the community they serve.
Lottie Minick, owner of Nickel Ranch, expressed it simply as the emotion that comes from participating in the fund-raising programs, both as a corporate donor and as an individual.
“For the first time, I feel like I’m really doing something to help. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, and now I’m involved in it.”
How to Be an Backyard Benefactor
Kroger Share Card
To receive a Kroger Share Card, contact the beneficiary (the “Share Card Participant.”) Check out our neighborhood list below or ask your preferred charity/school/church if they participate. The Card can be used at any Kroger; the East Dallas store is located at 5665 Mockingbird (214-826-2901). Remember to use the Card each time you shop; the organization will receive 1 percent of your purchase amount.
Share Card Participants
- Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas
- Grace United Methodist Church
- Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind
- Washington Street Mission
- YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas
- Dallas CAN! Academy
- Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas
- Dallas CASA
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Preservation Dallas
- Volunteer Center for Dallas County
- Dallas Habitat for Humanity
- The Anita N. Martinex Ballet Folklorico
- Housing Crisis Center
- Scofield Christian School
- Liberty Christian High
- Fellowship Bible Church White Rock
- White Rock Montessori School
- J.F. Kennedy PTA
- Jonathon’s Place
- Greenland Hills Crime Watch
- Zion Lutheran School
- Ridgewood Park United Methodist Church
- My Guardian Angel Volunteers for Children
- Juliette Fowler Homes
- Robert T. Hill PTA
- Eastlake Christian School
- Hexter Elementary School
- White Rock Friends
- White Rock Methodist Church
- Stonewall Jackson Elementary PTA
- Robert F. Lee School
- East Dallas Developmental Center
- Lakewood Service League
- Greater Lakewood Shepherd Center
- Lakewood Assembly of God Children’s Ministry
- J.L. Long Middle School
- Casa Linda UMC Chancel Choir
- Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School
- The Dallas Arboretum
- White Rock Senior Center
- St. Bernard Catholic School
- White Rock Center of Hope
- Mt. Auburn PTA
- East Dallas Community School
- St. Luke Community UMC
- O.M. Robert Elementary School
- East Dallas Church of Christ
- Vickery Place Neighborhood Association
- Tom Thumb Good Neighbor Program
To participate, apply at the store’s customer service window for a Tom Thumb Reward Card. Then check the store’s list of participating schools, churches and charities for the one you’d like to benefit from your purchases and write down their “code.” When you first use your Card, tell the cashier the organization’s code; from that point on, whenever you use your Card, the organization will receive 1 percent of total sales each quarter.
Neighborhood Tom Thumb stores are located at: 6333 E. Mockingbird at Abrams (214-824-1265); 6770 Abrams Road at Skillman (214-340-1119); and 3322 N. Buckner Blvd. at John West (214-328-2830).
Albertson’s Community Partner Card
To receive a Community Partner Card, fill out an application at the the store’s customer service window and pick a beneficiary from the store’s list of participating schools, churches and charities. Remember to use the Card when you shop: The store’s rebate is based on a floating percentage of Albertson’s purchase amounts — from 2 to 4.5 percent. The Card is good at Albertson’s locations nationwide; the East Dallas store is located at 6464 E. Mockingbird at Abrams (214-827-4870).
Target – School Fundraising Made Simple
Target will donate 1 percent of Target Guest Card purchases to the customer’s designated school. To receive a Card, pick up an application at any Target store. Neighborhood locations include 212 Medallion Center (214-361-2026) and Target at Cityplace (214-826-0331). Note your school of choice on the application— see the neighborhood list below or ask your preferred charity/school/church if they participate. Call 800-316-6142 if you already are a Guest Card holder and want to begin contributing.
Participating East Dallas Schools
- J. W. Ray Elementary
- Cesar Chavez Elementary
- St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary
- Dan D. Rogers Elementary
- Lakewood Elementary
- Stonewall Jackson Elementary
- Dallas Academy
- Hexter Elementary
- Woodrow Wilson High
- Sanger Elementary
- St. Bernard Elementary
- Libscomb Elementary
- Robert E. Lee Elementary
- Lakewood Presbyterian School
- L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary
- White Rock Montessori
- Spence Middle School
- Mount Auburn Elementary
- Zion Lutheran School
- Long Middle School
- Bonham Elementary
- Travis Elementary
- Reinhardt Elementary
- Scofield Christian School
- Hill Middle School
- Ignacio Zaragosa Elementary
- Fannin Elementary
- Liberty Junior High
- St. John’s Episcopal School
- Children’s Center School
- JFK Learning Center
- Lutheran High
- Liberty Christian High
- The Highlanders Garden School
- White Rock North School
- Lakehill Preparatory
- East Dallas Community School
Minyard Food Stores – Computers for Kids and More
Information packets can be found at any of the store’s chains — Minyard, Sac ’n Save and Carnival.
Basically, you collect your grocery store receipts from late August through March, bundle them up and turn them in to your school of choice. At the end of the program each year, participating schools can choose from a variety of school equipment based on their total receipts. East Dallas Minyard locations are: 2118 Abrams (214-823-6770) and Carnival Food Stores,1800 N. Henderson Blvd. (214-826-8470).
When you buy toys or software at a Discovery Quest party or fair, remember that the hosting school or daycare will receive credit to purchase items for their needs. Several area schools use the program, including White Rock Montessori, Hexter Elementary, Lakewood Elementary and the United Methodist Developmental Learning Center in Lakewood. For information, contact Bobbie Collins, Discovery Toys, 214-824-2853.
General Mills – Box Tops for Education
Keep an eye on those cereal boxes! General Mills contributes 10 to 15 cents per returned box top. The box should contain all the instructions you need, but if you have questions, call 800-353-1341
AT&T Points for Schools
Points for Schools is a redemption option with AT&T’s Personal Rewards program. The company says they have committed “$150 million to support teaching and learning through the effective use of technology.”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.