Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Church fund-raiser is 'flush' with success

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

Many community groups raise money by washing cars or holding bake sales.

But when members of the youth group at Mount Hermon Church of the Brethren started thinking about a summer fund-raiser, they came up with a different idea.

You might call it commodes with a cause.

“The last time we went to (a national youth) conference, some advisers were together discussing fund-raisers,” said Denna Ramsey, a youth leader at the Bassett church. “Another adviser was talking about putting pink flamingos in people’s yards. In order to move the pink flamingo, the person had to make a donation.”

The youth at Mount Hermon thought the idea had potential, but they wanted to put a slightly different spin on it.

“They said pink flamingos weren’t bad enough, that people would just leave them there,” Ramsey recalled. “They wanted to put toilets in people’s yards.”

The youth introduced the idea to the congregation with a skit during a Youth Sunday service in May, complete with a toilet “right up front,” Ramsey said.

“They thought it was hysterical,” she said of church members. “Our congregation really likes to joke around.”

The youth chose Ralph Stone of Bassett as the first in the congregation to be “toiletized.”

“We had a little toy toilet, and we put it under the pew” where Stone was sitting, Ramsey said. Since then, each person who finds the toilet in his or her yard gets to chose where it will go next.

Volunteers move the toilet at night or when the homeowners are away so that it shows up as a surprise.

Since mid-May, the “golden throne” — so-named because church members have painted the toilet gold and decorated it with flowers — has been placed in the yards of 15 to 20 church members, Ramsey said.

Late last week, Theresa Shepherd became one of them.

“I had been at church helping with vacation Bible school, so while I was gone they put it in my yard,” said Shepherd, who lives in Collinsville. “People have taken pictures of this thing; the neighbors ask questions. ... It’s been so much fun with this thing, it’s unreal.”

Those who find the toilet in their yards negotiate with the youth’s CIA (Christians in Action) service to have it removed. The minimum donation required is $5, and so far church members have given as much as $60, Ramsey said.

Although she hasn’t totaled the money donated so far, Ramsey said the group hopes to raise $1,000 this summer. In addition to the toilet project, the group is performing odd jobs for church members.

The funds will go toward paying for a trip to the Church of the Brethren’s National Youth Conference, which is held every four years at Colorado State University. The trip usually costs about $1,000 per person, Ramsey said.

The next conference will be in 2010, so the youth, who are in eighth through 12th grades, have a few more summers of work ahead of them.

So do Ramsey and fellow youth leaders Sherry Flanagan and LaDonna Varner, who have helped organize the project. But that’s OK by them, Ramsey said.

“We have really had time to go visit with people in the church that we normally wouldn’t visit with” when the toilet is delivered or removed, she said. “It’s been a blessing.”

Source: Martinsville Bulletin

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