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Schools reap benefits of box tops, Target REDcard

Mary Shaffer, coordinator for the Box Tops for Education program at Wredling Middle School in St. Charles, sorts through coupons collected in the office.
Mary Shaffer, coordinator for the Box Tops for Education program at Wredling Middle School in St. Charles, sorts through coupons collected in the office.

As a Wredling Middle School PTO member, Mary Shaffer has spent the past two years collecting box tops from the school office and mailing the bundle to an organization that will turn the clippings into cash for the St. Charles school.

Her most recent batch totaled about 2,100 box tops, she said, noting each stub is worth 10 cents.

“To me, it’s free money,” Shaffer said.

Many schools in and near the Tri-Cities are taking advantage of the revenue-generating opportunities presented by Box Tops for Education and Target REDcard’s Take Charge of Education program.

The fundraising initiatives generally are spearheaded by PTOs and directly benefit the schools, PTO members and district administrators said. Gail Krawczykowski, who chairs the Target REDcard Committee for the Lincoln Elementary PTO in St. Charles, said its funds increase classroom allowances.

“It’s been a huge benefit to the school,” Krawczykowski said. “Kudos to Target for doing that.”

Nor is it an extra burden on families because the donations are based off the purchases made by REDcard holders enrolled in the program, she said.

“It’s so easy,” Krawczykowski said. “I can’t stress enough how easy it is.”

In St. Charles School District 303, school budgets have remained flat for many years although expenses have risen, Chief Financial Officer Brad Cauffman said. In fiscal 2010-11, site allocations were reduced by 6 percent because of districtwide budget reductions.

“While I do not work with the Box Top or Target programs directly, any extra revenue the school [sites] collect is put to very good use and offsets [costs] that the district – taxpayers – would need to provide or staff members pay for personally,” Cauffman said in an email.

Every box top and swipe of the REDcard add up.

According to their websites, Box Tops for Education has generated more than $475 million for schools nationwide since 1996, and Target has donated more than $354 million to schools since 1997.

Locally, donations vary.

Since 2004, box tops have generated $6,869 for Wredling, $21,407 for Harrison Street Elementary School in Geneva School District 304; $15,097 for Alice Gustafson Elementary School in Batavia School District 101; and, among other examples, $32,693 for John Stewart Elementary School in Kaneland School District 302.

Shelley Hueber, principal of John Shields Elementary School in Kaneland, said the PTO uses box tops funds to buy recess materials, such as balls and jump ropes. At John Stewart, the parent group uses the money to support events it puts on for the kids, such as spaghetti nights, principal Laura Garland said.

Meanwhile, the principals said, the Target funds are managed through the schools. By letting the money accumulate over a couple of years in a technology account, Hueber said, John Shields bought 14 smart boards. John Stewart puts its Target money in the student activity account and has used it on incentives for the positive behavior program, assemblies, iPads and a writing presentation by an author, Garland said.

According to Target, John Stewart has raised $583.18 toward its next donation, and John Shields as accumulated $753.61. Elsewhere, St. Charles North High School has earned $2,537.97; Geneva High School has accumulated $1,886.29; Batavia High School has earned $2,455.69; and Kaneland High School has built up $813.70.

Krawczykowski promotes the REDcard program in Lincoln’s weekly newsletter, especially before a big holiday. Participation at the school has nearly doubled in recent years, she said, noting the school has 68 cardholders. In 2009, she said, the school received nearly $500; last August, it got nearly $2,000.

“It’s grown over the last few years exponentially because of this awareness we’re raising,” she said.

Box Tops for Education is more complex because it offers bonus points and opportunities to earn eBoxTops. And, as Shaffer said, the clippings expire. As Wredling’s Box Top coordinator, it’s her job to sort the submissions, bundle them in batches of 50 and mailing them before the two deadlines, Nov. 1 and March 1.

The PTO decides how to spend the money, she said.

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