A Wauwatosa mom drew national attention from Box Tops for Education headquarters for her work as a coordinator for the program, increasing the contribution for her school by more than tenfold in the past seven years.
Over the past year, Amy Johnson helped earn $5,700 for Eisenhower Elementary School by "turning trash into cash" through the national program that pays schools to collect box tops from the packaging of hundreds of participating product lines.
Contributions like Johnson and the Eisenhower community's have, since the founding of Box Tops for Education in 1996, brought in more than half a billion dollars for schools across the country, the organization announced.
Johnson’s volunteer effort has helped gather enough Box Tops for Education funding that Eisenhower has been able to pay for field trips to the State Capitol and the Milwaukee County Zoo, host cultural performances, and purchase books and playground equipment.
"This is my seventh year as the Box Tops coordinator at Eisenhower," Johnson said. "Before that, our school participated in Box Tops for Education, but it was not really promoted and most parents did not know about it.
"Another parent and I took over the program because we saw a need to increase awareness and our school’s earnings. The more I learned about Box Tops, the more passionate I became."
Johnson said student participation in the Box Tops program has grown to between 75 and 80 percent each year, and that in her seven years, Eisenhower has seen its earnings go from $532 to last year’s $5,700.
The average participating school nationwide makes about $900 a year through Box Tops.
"The key to making the Box Tops for Education program successful for any school is to get the students and teachers involved and excited," Johnson said. "It’s truly the easiest thing that many parents can do for their child’s school – you cut out the Box Top coupon that can be found on hundreds of products and give it to your local school.
"We started small, just handing out collection sheets and information the first year, making everyone aware of the program and what we were trying to do. Then we gave out little prizes such as pencils and stickers for every sheet collected. We began grade level contests, classroom competitions and all school challenges."
The effort grew into Popsicle parties, crazy hair days, pajama days, performances by Irish dancers – and tailgate lunches with everybody's favorite local sports mascots.
“We did this contest two years in a row with huge success," Johnson said. "The grade that brought in the most Box Tops won a tailgate lunch with the Milwaukee Brewers Famous Racing Sausages. In eight weeks we raised $1,200 because everyone wanted to be the class to win."
Johnson said that Eisenhower Principal Kristin Bowers has bought in fully to promoting the program, and classroom teachers have launched their own independent challenges and rewards.
Johnson said she's set a goal to top $6,000 in the coming year – quite a contribution to a small elementary school's funding. And that target will add to the national goal of raising $75 million this year for all participating schools.
This year's Box Tops collection period began March 1. Anyone can get involved by clipping Box Tops labels from more than 240 brands in 40 product categories.
For every Box Tops label collected, schools receive 10 cents in unrestricted funding to help them with their basic operating needs and programs that would not be possible otherwise. More than 75,000 volunteer Box Tops for Education coordinators motivate local communities to collect Box Tops.
Throughout the year, Box Tops for Education offers a variety of bonus Box Tops on more than 50 million packages at grocery stores and at www.BTFE.com, allowing shoppers to double their earnings with select products.