Ceres schools prepare fund-raiser

CERES -- A $10 raffle ticket buys the chance to win $5,000 in cash or one of 10 prizes valued at $500 or more.

It also will help pay for books and field trips for students and teachers at Ceres schools.

The Ceres Unified School District Foundation is soliciting donations for the raffle, one of its biggest fund-raising efforts ever. Tickets will go on sale within the next few months, said Dave McConnell, foundation board president.

"We want to help the teachers out who do special activities for their students," he said.

The money raised is meant to replace funds previously collected by students through candy, cookie or magazine sales drives. Only about half of the money collected during those sales stayed at the schools, McConnell said. The foundation hopes to raise more than the drives used to.

"This does two things -- it takes kids off the streets, from having to go door to door; and they keep 100 percent of the money raised," McConnell said. "It's a win-win situation. They get the money immediately."

Since its inception in 2004, the foundation has raised $92,000 and disbursed it among the district's 19 schools. The money is doled out through mini-grants or for books for school libraries.

With shortages in state funding, especially for arts and music, public schools are looking for outside help to continue programs and services. Education foundations are one way to get that financial support.

"The money is absolutely phenomenal for us. We get very basic curriculum; anything we want to do in addition to that we either have to pay for out of our own pockets or have the students pay for it," said Cindi Gorang, a third-grade teacher at LaRosa School.

Gorang has received two mini-grants, $500 and $1,000, to help pay for field trips, videos and technology for her classroom. She said the grants are easy to apply for and enrich the student experience.

Donors have offered cash toward the raffle's $5,000 top prize and items such as a TV, sporting package, Disneyland trip and gift certificates for grocery store shopping sprees, McConnell said.

The goal of the drive is to raise "as much as possible," McConnell said. Foundation officials hope to make the raffle an annual event.

The foundation will accept the tax-deductible donations through next spring. The raffle will take place at the Ceres Street Faire on May 3.

To donate money or prizes for the raffle or to find out how to purchase raffle tickets, contact Jay Simmonds at 556-1552 or Julie Lynn Martin at 556-1555.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.