The PTA at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, Ga., raises $90,000 each year to support the school. But don't think this group is just about fundraising. Last year, the calendar was packed with free or low-cost family events, including a Hispanic Heritage Festival and a forest-theme science night.

"We think it's really important to have a mix of [events] where our hand is out asking for support and also just fellowship, community-building nights," says president Dawn Meyers.

The PTA welcomes families back to school with "A Taste of Barrow," a potluck dinner featuring dishes from the many cultures represented in the school of 420. The diverse population includes children of international students and visiting scholars who are associated with the neighboring University of Georgia.

A fall Hispanic Heritage Festival celebrates the school's Spanish-language program with dance lessons, food, music, and crafts. About one-fourth of the PTA's budget goes toward the Spanish language program, which started in 2001. Seed money came from parking fees collected during the 1996 Summer Olympics, when some sporting events were held at the university. The PTA now sells parking at the school during the university's home football games, earning between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. Other fundraisers include an annual fun run and 5K road race and sales of art.

The PTA also supports students in smaller ways. Before the winter holidays, kids enjoy a pajama day, during which they hear a special book read to them and drink hot chocolate in the library. The group coordinates a pajama drive for those children whose families cannot afford to provide them. A PTA family support fund makes sure kids can buy a book at school book fairs and provides food when a parent loses a job.

In addition to supporting academics and arts programs, the PTA provides ways for parents and students to volunteer. Parents assisted with a new program the school started last year called alternative recess. Students sign up to "donate" a recess period, during which they pick up litter or help with other small tasks.

Because there's usually little business on the agenda at the PTA's December meeting, parents and kids help teachers with projects. "That's the kind of group we have," Meyers says. "They're real hands-on and willing to get in and work, from big, grand things like a Spanish language program to cutting out hearts and stars for teachers."

Staff members often talk to students about giving back to the community, says principal Tad MacMillan. "It really is helpful when you have these adults who are modeling it all the time."