The PTA Thrift Shop isn’t giving any money to Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools this year, leaving PTA volunteers disappointed and looking for ways to increase support for teachers and students, they said.
They were warned it might happen, PTA leaders said, but they are concerned after five years without a significant contribution. PTA Thrift Shop officials are expected to talk with the PTAs in November, PTA Council President Lisa Kaylie said.
The nonprofit thrift shop has been earning money for local schools since 1952. Its Chapel Hill and Carrboro stores share their net proceeds based on a school’s student population and the number receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
Only $119,000 has been allocated since 2012, when the new Carrboro store was being built. Previous years netted well over $200,000 for the schools.
Most of the profits are paying for that construction and a new building next door that will lease space to nonprofits serving local youths. The expansion is meant to sustain the thrift shop’s future and earn more money for schools by using its land more effectively, said Barbara Jessie-Black, thrift shop executive director.
She expects the $1 million YouthWorx on Main project to be open by spring, allowing them to look at growing PTA and Project Impact funding, she said.
The Project Impact fund, a competitive grant program created in 2015, awarded $9,738 to four schools last year. This year’s winners – Frank Porter Graham Elementary, Glenwood Elementary, Northside Elementary and Chapel Hill High School – shared $13,100.
PTA leaders learned they wouldn’t be getting extra money in a Sept. 30 email about the 2016 grant winners. The email and an attachment talked at length about the grants and thrift shop accomplishments. The funding news was buried in the attachment:
“In lieu of a September 2016 disbursement, the Board is discussing how we might shift the historic disbursement timeline in such a way that allows CHCCS PTAs to have even more impact on K-12 students.”
Laura Malinchock, Chapel Hill High School PTSA president, said she didn’t catch it initially and then called to check, because “it was a little ambiguous.” Kaylie agreed the communication wasn’t the best; the thrift shop was more clear when construction started in 2012, she said.
“With the turnover, saying that you did that three years ago, it might as well be written in the Dead Sea scrolls,” Kaylie said. “Unfortunately that has to be communicated on an annual basis in a really simple way. (The email) was very, very long, and it just was not clearly written in a way that would be helpful.”
Jessie-Black admitted communication can be difficult, noting the board will visit each school to answer questions.
“I feel really bad that this has caught folks by surprise, but to be quite frank, we’ve had numerous conversations, we did this last year, the year before last, we had conversations with the folks at the PTA Council, and even the PTA Council president at the time reminded folks in the room, do not count on the PTA Thrift Shop money as a line-item in your budget. Treat it as you would a gift and hope that you have more than you thought you have,” she said.
The CHHS PTSA took that message to heart, Malinchock said, but was still disappointed after last year’s surprise $7,800 “gift.”
That money funded some extras, she said, from starting a mental health awareness class for students, parents and staff to providing five $500 scholarships to community college-bound seniors. They’re looking at how to keep the momentum going, she said.
The 340-member PTSA helps meet teacher and school needs largely through donations and fundraisers, including the Oct. 29 Tiger Chill carnival, she said.
The thrift shop “adds a cushion to our budget. It adds a lot of support for our school that we can’t get from our families,” Malinchock said. “I would hope that they’d see how important it is and that they do circle back and start giving money to the PTAs.”
It’s a similar story at Culbreth Middle School, PTSA president Emily Martine said. They asked Culbreth members in last week’s newsletter for fundraising ideas and donations. They also urged them to save used clothing for an alternative fundraiser, rather than donating it to the thrift shop.
It would be good to have more transparency about where the thrift shop’s money is going and when it might come back, Martine said.
“We’re very grateful for them and all they’ve done for the schools, we’re just a little disappointed in the communication around the disbursements this year,” she said.
PTA Thrift Shop sales revenues and proceeds given to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools:
▪ 2010: $1.41 million earned, $221,488 for schools
▪ 2011: $1.43 million earned; $265,000 for schools
▪ 2012: $1.13 million earned; $30,000 for schools
▪ 2013: $1.37 million earned; $4,000 for schools
▪ 2014: $1.65 million earned; none for schools
▪ 2015: $1.67 million earned; $85,000 for schools