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Dimes add up to big contributions Robert Moreno | Sat, Apr 06 2013 12:00 PM

In a time when schools are financially strapped, Eastlake resident and mother Darlene Harris, 43, is doing her part in raising money for Arroyo Vista Charter School and schools across America.

Harris, a military spouse, started collecting box tops as part of the Box Tops for Education program in 2005 while living in Louisiana.

She then took her box top work to Naples, Italy, where her family was stationed, and helped a school there raise about $4,000.

This time she’s back collecting box tops for her son’s school.

Harris and her staff of five mothers raised about $1,900 in March, which is one of two box top collection deadline months in the year. The next deadline is Nov. 1

For every box top label collected, schools receive 10 cents in funding.

Harris said 10 cents doesn’t seem like a lot, but to her, every dime counts.

“People say it’s just 10 cents,” Harris said. “But when you add that up, $1,900 is a lot of money.”

Box Tops for Education is a program designed to fund schools. General Mills brand cereals, Kleenex, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury are just a handful of companies involved with the box tops program.

To raise money for a school, a person clips box tops from a qualifying product and mails it to the box tops address before a given deadline. The Box Tops for Education program in turn sends a check in the amount collected to a selected school.

The Box Tops for Education program has earned $525 million for schools across the nation since its inception in 1996, according to the organization.

In the past year alone, the program donated $47 million to schools across the United States.

Harris said each school decides what to do with the funds. When she lived in Italy, the school she box topped for spent the funds on providing books for students.

Arroyo Vista Charter School Parent Teacher Association President Autumn Reed said the box tops money raised for Arroyo Charter School goes to paying teachers’ salaries.

“The money goes to paying the salaries of the art, music and PE teachers,” Reed said.

“They are usually the first teachers to be cut during budget cuts, so the PTA pays their salaries with box tops.”

Reed said the money goes into the school’s general fund and is then used to pay the teachers’ salaries.

Harris said Arroyo Vista Charter School asks students to collect box tops. The school sends collection sheets to students to take home, and the students bring the sheets back to school with box tops.

Harris estimates she has raised more than $13,000 for schools since she started box topping in 2005.

Harris doesn’t consider box topping fundraising but a way to raise money.

“I consider box tops more of a program than a fundraiser,” she said. “I am not asking for money or going door to door. I am just asking parents to turn in something that almost every parent has in their pantry.”

The maximum a school can raise is $20,000.

Reed said Harris has a small staff to help her during the collection process, but box topping is really Harris’s project.

“Most parents say, ‘It’s just 10 cents, I am not going to bother’,” she said. “It’s getting that mentality changed. Yes, it’s 10 cents but it adds up.”

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