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Cleaning Up

Through partnering with the Kohl's Cares program, a booster club in Covina, Calif. raised about $3,500 while cleaning up a local beach. 

When planning fundraisers, Charter Oak Aquatics Booster Club president Mitch Stein tries to find events that involve the team members, so they invest in the program. "My main goal is for the kids to do as much of the work as they can," he says. "I always ask how much of the fundraiser is going to be done by the kids and how much is going to be done by the parents. If it's not at least 80-20, then I typically try to find something else."

This year, an event that fit the bill perfectly was a beach cleanup funded by a grant. The way it works is that the booster club applies for the grant, does the work, and then receives the grant money.
  
In the past, Stein has received grants for the club through the Kohl's Cares Associates in Action grant program, which sends volunteers and financial backing to the group's event. In order to receive a grant, at least five Kohl's employees from one store must agree to help with the non-profit organization's event for a minimum of three consecutive hours. By fulfilling those requirements, the organization will receive a $500 grant. Each team of five employees that volunteers at the event helps the organization raise an additional $500.

In honor of Earth Day, the Kohl's Care program focuses on partnering with environmental projects for the month of April. "Previously, the club had gotten one of the grants by holding an e-waste recycling program," Stein says. "But that's a lot of physical labor, and we didn't want to ask the volunteers to stand out in the sun, carrying heavy TVs out of people's cars again. The beach cleanup was a lot more appealing."

The Charter Oak club proposed the beach cleanup to three local Kohl's stores, and all three accepted. Having support from multiple stores boosted the amount of money that was awarded by increasing the number of employees who came to the event--altogether there were 30-40 Kohl's volunteers present.

Along with applying for the grant, Stein recruited help from the team. "The swim team has about 80 kids on it," he says. "So I asked each team member to bring two people. Of course all of them weren't able to make it, but we had about 170 people there in addition to the Kohl's employees.

"Whenever we work on something, I try to make sure play is involved, too," Stein continues. "So we cleaned for three hours, then had a barbeque and played volleyball on the beach in the afternoon."
 
Getting the event set up took about 20 hours, spread over the course of six weeks. To start the process of receiving the grant, Stein visited each of the three stores, and talked with its manager. "Along with applying, the first thing you need to do is get the employees interested in volunteering," he says. "Since they have to agree to come and help in order for you to get the grant, you need to find out if your proposal is appealing to them. It takes a couple of weeks to get that part going, and then about a month for the proposal to be approved."
 
Once that was set in motion, Stein focused on getting the team and their parents on board with the idea. "Sometimes it's hard for them to understand how going to a beach and cleaning for a few hours is going to function as a fundraiser," he says. "In my case, once they realized that doing this meant they wouldn't have to sell candy or hold car washes, they were excited about it."
 
When the beach cleanup was accepted, planning for the rest of the day began. "That really took the most time," Stein says. "We didn't have to do a barbeque, but it was a nice way to make it an event, and to thank the Kohl's employees who volunteered their time.

"The team is split into varsity and J.V., so we assigned based on that," he continues. "I donated hot dogs, the J.V. members brought beverages, and the varsity members brought side dishes or desserts. You might end up with too many desserts doing it that way, but it's important to remember that you aren't planning a Thanksgiving dinner so you can't stress about the minute details. It's the gesture that counts."

On the morning of the cleanup, the club met at one of the local Kohl's stores and car-pooled to the beach. The club provided its own garbage bags, since the host organization is responsible for bringing its own supplies.
 
When they arrived at the beach, the volunteers formed a line along the sand and got to work. "Most of the kids were great about putting in the time, and parents told them if they missed a spot." Stein says. "Everyone really did a great job, and had fun while they were there. It was a huge success."

A total of 55 bags were filled, and left with a nearby restaurant for disposal. "I had contacted the restaurant prior to the event," Stein explains. "I asked if we could use their trash cans, and they were more than happy to let us do that, since the beach we cleaned was in front of their facility. It was a win-win situation."

If another club is interested in applying for a Kohl's Cares grant, or something similar, Stein recommends getting registered as a non-profit organization. "It takes some time at the beginning, but it's worth it," he says. "Having that status will make it eligible for things like this program."
 
Information about the Kohl's Cares program can be found at a local store, or online here.



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