Old Town restaurants and shops are raising money for local schools in a project called Shop 4 Schools.
On Nov. 18, participating retailers in the neighborhood gave 18 percent of customers check-out total to participating schools in the area.
Lynn Ross, owner of Mother & Earth Baby Boutique, organized this event based on a similar fundraiser the city of Grand Haven does, where they raised almost $10,000 last year.
“A lot of local, small local businesses, don’t have the means to be able to donate items to silent auctions or monetary donations,” Ross said. “This is a great way that we can support the community and they can support us at the same time.”
Heather Klopp, Parent-Teacher Organization president at St. Michaels Parish School, said this was an occasion for many things.
She said it was a way “to support our Old Town merchants and the fact it was an opportunity for us to have a fundraising opportunity to give back to our school.”
There were 18 Old Town shops and restaurants that participated in this fundraiser.
Metro Retro was one of them.
Ted Stewart, co-owner of Metro Retro, said these schools are lacking the funding they need.
“The funding is pretty minimal,” he said. “The funding that they need, I’m sure, is lacking.”
Jill Mazzola, Parent-Teacher Organization vice president of funding at Okemos Public Montessori at Central, has three children enrolled at the participating schools: one at Okemos Public Montessori and two at Kinawa Middle.
“Unfortunately, there’s only so many resources the district has to go around and that really kind of covers the basics,” she said. “The Parent-Teacher Organizations have to fill in the gaps and buy things like specialized playground equipment.”
Anne Goudie, director of the Lansing Educational Advancement Foundation (LEAF), said this event can help where the money is lacking.
“As everyone is very well-aware that funding is limited for public education students and teachers,” she said. “What we do, as a foundation, is try to raise money to enhance that so that we make sure that all of our students have everything they need in their classrooms and our teachers have all the materials they need in order to support and to teach the students.”
Lynn said she reached out to all local schools about this fundraiser and seven schools replied, as well as LEAF.
Those schools were: Cornell Elementary, Chippewa Middle, Hiawatha Elementary, Kinawa 5-6, St. Gerard Catholic, St. Michael Parish, and Okemos Public Montessori at Central.
They were able to raise over $1,200, Ross said.
Mazzola said she thinks there’s a lot they can do with funding from this event.
One of the things they wish to do is an outdoor learning area, she said.
“As far as the Public Montessori, we kind of have a dream project that we’re fundraising for as well. We would like to put an asphalt walkway around our playgrounds,” she said.
She said not only they would like to use the money for that, but also for supplies.
“All of the schools Parent-Teacher Organizations primarily fund things like field trips, classroom materials,” she said.
Klopp said their hope is to use the money for family event programs or for assemblies.
Danielle Admire, manager at participating restaurant Sir Pizza, said the money from the event can help with things like sending kids to camp, extra tutoring and basic classroom supplies.
“You can’t really pull out enough money, it’s never going to be enough. That’s why we feel doing this together as a community, as a group, will help them out as well,” Admire said.
When Ross asked the schools what they would use the money for, she said she got many different responses like sending third-graders to camp, family fun events, and supplies.
Stewart also said he thinks the money can be used for a variety of things.
“I would think basic reading materials, notebooks, whatever other supplies that they need to be functional in a classroom,” he said.
Goudie also said she has high hopes as to what the money can be used for in her program and the 27 buildings within it.
“We’re also right now working on kindergarten through third grade reading readiness programs and we’re also looking at trying to support our third and fourth-graders to go do science education at the Ebersole Center,” she said. “Multiple things going on pre-k through 12 in the district that we hope to support with these funds.”
One of the reasons they wanted to do this fundraiser is because of how much the schools and their students help Old Town, Admire said.
“We have family night, karaoke night here. Kids come down with their families and I know quite a few of the schools that we’re helping out, the children have been down here,” she said.
Ross said this fundraiser would be a great way to bring the community together.
“They’re also giving to us so, it’s a great way for us to be supporting each other,” she said.
Mazzola also said she thought joining Old Town was a way to bring the community together.
“We very much love the opportunity to partner with local businesses. We feel it’s a win-win situation to maybe get some people to go to Old Town businesses that wouldn’t otherwise make the trip and benefit our kids,” she said.
Goudie said community support is always exciting to help make sure the students get what they need.
“School districts and teachers go above and beyond every day to support the students so anytime we can involve the community and we can bring community awareness to our schools, I think is always a positive,” she said.
Supporting the local merchants while also being able to help out the schools was a perk that came with this fundraiser, Klopp said.
“Anytime that we can support our merchants and if there’s an opportunity for fundraising to come back to the school, I think those are just little things that people don’t realize,” she said. “If you can spend it and it helps benefit your school where you’re sending your kids, I think that’s a win-win situation.”