Donations 'out of the box': Schools make the most of unusual donations

Friday, July 22, 2011
Jefferson Elementary's Jefferson Gives Back event is held each fall. (Submitted photo)

What would you do with 20,000 golf balls? A useless collection, you say? Not to your local school district. Tony Buehrle, development director at Notre Dame Regional High School, received just such a donation this summer.

"By all means this is the most unique donation I've ever come across," says Buehrle of the golf balls. They were donated by a few Notre Dame alumni who had inherited the collection from their father. He liked to go to golf courses and pick up the stray balls, and had amassed about 20,000 balls of all colors and brands, organized into egg cartons. He even had a number of valuable collectors edition balls.

"Sometimes we're not looking for it, but it comes to our doorstep and we try to use it and please the donor at the same time," says Buehrle. "The donors' intent was to do something for athletics in honor of their mom and dad, and whether it's a scholarship or donations to the Booster Club in the name of the donor, we'll try to do it."

Buehrle says 50 to 60 percent of the balls will be used for the school's golf team practices; he hopes to sell the rest on eBay or to Walmart, which will clean and resell the balls.

"We did unusual things before, so I decided we would consider it now," says Buehrle. In the past, the school has accepted hand-built bookshelves, books for the library, TVs, organs, pianos, chairs and tables, technology equipment and more. Thanks to a recent donation of pottery wheels, the school will offer pottery classes this fall, something it has never done before.

"We can extend student education into more college-level classes," he says. "Students benefit from education, whether it's practical or scientific. We want to continue their knowledge of that."

Jamie Jones, a parent liaison at Jefferson Elementary, also collects a variety of donations for her school, from hand sanitizer, tissues and diapers to socks, underwear and canned goods to furniture, bedding and household cleaners.

"There is always a great need of various items for the children and families. Part of my job is to make sure that those needs are met," says Jones. She coordinates Backpacks for Friday at Jefferson, a program through the Southeast Missouri Food Bank and GRACES Women's Council that sends backpacks of food home each weekend for needy students and their families. She also organizes the Jefferson Gives Back event each fall.

"We give away furniture, clothing, household items, TVs, shoes, bedding -- everything is free to our families. I open the gymnasium doors on a Saturday in September and they may have whatever they need," says Jones. "Times are hard and clothing is so expensive. I thought by doing this it might help our families be able to cope with the higher cost of living."

In the Jackson school district, chief financial officer Wade Bartels has accepted donations of school supplies, computers, clothing and even candy. He says just about any donated item can be used somewhere in the school district or by a family in need. The candy, for example, was distributed throughout the district for schools to use as small prizes for students.

"You never know what somebody's going to have and when they're going to think of you as the recipient," says Bartels. "We can normally put to use just about anything."

Want to help?

Local schools accept donations of all sorts from businesses, churches, school families and community members. If you have items to donate, call the school's development or school board office to discuss what you'd like to give and how the district might use it. Be sure to ask about 501(c)3 tax deductions.

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