Any guess what a ton of aluminum is worth these days? According to leaders at the St. Paul’s Lutheran School Parent Teacher League in Bremen, Ind., it’s enough to provide their students with bus transportation and their teachers with a few extra necessities each year. We spoke with PTL treasurer Joanna Fox to find out how the group turns cans into cash, and cookbooks and more into family fun for the entire community.

How did the aluminum can drive get started?
The group began fundraising in 1972 when our school building was constructed. When the need for a bus became evident, we were able to make arrangements with the local public school to include our children in the pickup. The kids were taken to the public school and from there got on one bus to come to St. Paul’s. Our obligation was only to pay a stipend to the driver. The parent group began a recycling drive to meet the obligation for the bus driver. This has been one of our most reliable means of fundraising over the years. Even today, this project results in the collection of about 2,000 pounds of aluminum annually and about $1,200 in revenue—more than enough to pay our bus driver.

Sounds like your parent group has been pretty creative in its fundraising efforts.
We try to focus on efforts that will eventually become self-sustaining, like the can drive, Box Tops, and a store credit card program, and we absolutely do not send our children to peddle merchandise or services. Most recently, four members of our PTL served a dinner for 60 members of a local branch of a financial services organization. Food was donated and prepared by a number of parents, and after expenses, we earned over $300.

What types of family events have you run?
Our annual fall school picnic is an opportunity for new families to meet others and to “mix up” the church and school. We had an illusionist perform, built a bonfire, provided hot dogs for roasting, and enjoyed everyone’s potluck dishes. The following morning was our parking lot rummage sale, so the picnic provided a convenient opportunity for families to bring their castoffs to the school.

What’s your favorite PTL activity or event?
Definitely the showcase of fine arts and crafts. This has been a tradition for more than 15 years and is an opportunity for students and staff to display their God-given gifts and abilities. It includes school art projects but is also open to the entire congregation. We have art and craft displays in a multitude of categories, including woodworking, quilting, watercolor painting, drawing, model-building, knitting, wood and/or bone carvings, and beading. The best part by far is the show portion of the showcase, where both students and adults present us with performances in instrumental music, vocal performance, and the occasional dramatic reading or skit. For the past several years, we’ve seen a six-handed piano trio (on one piano) performed by members of our school staff and family.

The Group
St. Paul’s Lutheran School Parent Teacher League, Bremen, Ind.

School size: 72 students, grades K-8
Our budget: $10,000
Mission statement: To strengthen the relationship between home and school; to make decisions with prayerful consideration and to honor and serve Christ in all that we do.
Where it goes: Playground equipment, a die-cut machine, field trips and summer camp for students, and annual family events such as a grandparents’ day celebration.

The Program
Aluminum Can Recycling Drive

Closing the door on product sales: According to treasurer Joanna Fox, the PTL avoids all forms of door-to-door fundraising. Instead, St. Paul’s parents come up with other options that raise money and involvement. The group usually has about 12 to 15 event coordinators. A few of their ideas are highlighted below.

Now we’re cooking: More than 250 copies of St. Paul’s Cooks have been sold since its publication in 2004. The cookbook, which features 300 recipes submitted by students, families, and staff, was formatted by a parent and reproduced at a local print shop.

Counter production: Parents assist with concession food sales at the church auction and an annual track meet, and they run ticket booths at a communitywide fair and the local blueberry festival.

Working up an appetite: Local restaurants donate a portion of the day’s profits or sales to the PTL. “We look forward to monthly dinners on the town as a way not only to raise funds but also to build relationships,” Fox says.