The Keystone Local Schools District in LaGrange, Ohio recently acquired a used school bus purchased through unconventional fundraising methods sparked by a mechanic's joke. The transportation department teamed up with their local community to raise funds in unique ways including a can drive and a Zumba class.
According to Margaret Miller, transportation supervisor for the district, the idea for fundraising for their own bus came from a need to expand the fleet and a lack of availability of state funds for transportation.
“The state hasn’t funded school buses for public schools for several years. So that money has to come out of either the permanent improvement money or the general fund, which is basically the local taxpayer. We were trying to come up with ways, because buses are expensive, that we could help out with that expense,” she said.
It was then, about two years ago, that Miller and her staff got creative and came up with scrap metal collection as a way to raise money.
“A gentleman who used to work here as a mechanic, made a joke about how during World War II everybody collected scraps. So we just decided to try that. We started getting cans from our cafeteria at lunchtime, and from local restaurants and the local bowling alley. We put bins out and a lot of our parents started bringing things like hot water tanks and lawn chairs and putting them in our bins,” she told STN.
Later, the project evolved to include various different fundraising methods, such as a yard sale with items donated by the community, the sale of a cookbook put together by the transportation department, and admission to a Zumba class benefitting the fund. Student groups from the district’s elementary school also hosted a can drive, Miller added.
The district went on to raise $20,000 over the two-year span, which nearly covered the full cost of the 2008 Thomas freightliner.
“Used buses are a funny thing. You just keep looking and try to get the best deal you can get. We wanted to get a newer bus, so they’re more expensive. This one happened to come up. Then I went to the treasurer and the school district did give us the remaining $4,000 in personal improvement money. I think they figured it was a good deal, because a new bus is about $80,000,” said Miller.
Pride and excitement over the bus is great in the community, with Miller adding that it will be featured in a parade at an upcoming local festival later this month with a “thank you” banner hanging from it, as a sign of gratitude for the support.
“We just feel blessed that we have so much support from the community for this project. Because really, if we hadn’t had it, we would have never been able to do this,” she said.
While fundraising for the bus was successful, the project is not over yet. Miller stated that there are plans to raise funds for another bus, with various events scheduled for the coming months.
“We’ve got momentum. We’re driven to collect money for the next one,” she said.