The small task that makes a difference

Published 11:21 am Monday, July 18, 2011

By JASON MAYFIELD / Guest Columnist

Running the streets of Columbiana in the month of July can be tough, but at least it raises money — sort of — for my classroom come fall.

A few years back, my school’s parent-teacher group began collecting Box Tops for Education, sponsored by General Mills. Last year, the company donated over $49 million to schools through the project.

The box tops appear in all places, from the obvious (cereal boxes) to the less obvious (facial tissue) to the completely unexpected (printing paper). Most of the box tops contribute a dime in the form of a check to the school. At Columbiana Middle, the money has funded science equipment, Scholar’s Bowl practice questions, books and technology. As the program has continued, I’ve gone from just collecting the box tops myself to getting my parents, my sister’s family and then my auntie involved.

Auntie lives in Atlanta, though, and her visits are to Columbiana to visit my grandmother. My aunt and I are clever, and we’ve developed a highly organized system of smuggling box tops from Georgia to Alabama. Auntie does her part by placing the box tops in the back bathroom my grandmother closes off. I do my part by collecting them after an early-morning, still-too-hot run around the Elvin Hill Elementary track and downtown.

Box tops are certainly not the only way to support a school, maybe not even the most profitable. My favorite fundraiser is to receive a briefcase full of money when I check my box at work. However, I have yet to discover that briefcase in my daily trip to the teachers lounge. What I have found are small bags filled with box tops — box tops that have been dropped by the school in my name from high school students I used to teach. Those contributions brighten any day.

Whether you have a child in school or not, sending your box tops to a local school — any school — is an easy way to show support in tough economic times. At my school, even with a support base of adolescents that aren’t stereotypically good at bringing anything from home in, we raised more than $300 last year — just from our community’s, and Atlanta’s, dedication to a small task.

Jason Mayfield is a gifted instructor at Columbiana Middle School.