“Kids are our business.” That’s the motto the Gypsy School PTA in Depew, Okla., chose for the 2010-11 school year. With 83 percent of students qualifying for the free or reduced-price lunch programs and the school itself struggling financially, PTA leaders knew they had to get down to business and provide some of the basic necessities for students.

Gypsy School PTA members not only donated classroom supplies but also cleaned bathrooms and mowed the lawn. They raised money to modernize the library and provided enrichment activities for Gypsy students—as well as students at another area school. The PTA’s efforts earned it the award for Outstanding Parent Group at a Small School in PTO Today’s 2011 Parent Group of the Year search.

The rural preK-8 school has 128 students. When the custodian retired in 2009, the PTA and teachers took over cleaning and grounds maintenance to save the school money. Last year, volunteers spent hours painting, mowing, weeding, planting flowers, and cleaning so the kids would have a pleasant and healthy learning environment.

Parents also donated their time in the classrooms to help students with reading and math and worked as library aides. All told, they logged more than 550 hours.

To keep hygiene issues at bay, the PTA supplied tissues, paper towels, napkins, and hand sanitizer for every classroom and maintained the supplies throughout the school year.

The PTA hosted an event almost every month and invited a nearby elementary school without a parent group to many of them, says president Angie McNeill. During one program, students from both schools learned about flooding and tornadoes during a visit from a Tulsa TV meteorologist.

At the group’s biggest event, Bingo for Books, participants brought new or gently used books for the library or gave a monetary donation. The event raised more than $1,300 and collected 89 new chapter books.

Another reading event, Family Literacy Night, exceeded PTA leaders’ expectations when they gave out more than 250 books and reading gift bags. The local state representative read from Green Eggs and Ham, and the dish was also served at the event.

Other PTA events included a carnival, a clean-up-your-school night, a healthy lifestyle program, and a holiday shop.

What the judges loved: Parent leaders worked to change the group’s image from fundraising to serving the school community, and they provided that support at every level—for teachers and staff, students, and parents.

Cool fact: The PTA has had 100 percent parent membership for the past two years.