Fundraiser goes far beyond a bake sale

Parents leverage prime real estate into a way to support local schools
by: JIM CLARK, Parents of Alameda Elementary students are remodeling this house at 2824 N.E. 46th Ave. Real estate agent Carol Landers will sell the house and donate her fees to the school.

Parents in many parts of the city struggle to sell wrapping paper for their school fundraisers. At Alameda Elementary, Doug Landers bought a whole house.

A very nice house, which he and his fellow parents and community members have spent the past nine months fixing up. When it's complete, in about a month, they plan to sell it to bring in some serious cash for the school.

'We just thought the overall house craze and Portland's passion for redoing houses makes it a great project,' said his wife, Carol Landers, the real estate agent for the house. 'It's a ton of fun, and it's interesting.'

Landers bought the house in July 2005 for $415,000, and Carol Landers said she hopes to sell it for about $750,000. Factoring in all of the costs involved, they're hoping for a net profit to the school of about $75,000.

'I'm just the dad trying to raise the money for the school,' said Doug Landers, who remodels homes for a living. 'It's just the sweat equity of parents trying to give the school more ammunition.'

The house project won't benefit only Alameda. A third of the profits - potentially $25,000 - will go to the Portland Schools Foundation's equity fund, to be distributed to all schools districtwide.

Sharing the wealth makes the effort truly worthwhile, Landers said, and was the only way some parents would participate.

The idea of flipping a house to raise money for schools certainly is a unique one, but not the only out-of-the-box fundraising scheme parents have dreamed up.

At Chapman Elementary in Northwest, for example, parents began a modern home tour, called the Street of Eames, to benefit an after-school program for Chapman's homeless students. The event raised $81,000 last year and may be expanded to serve homeless students at other schools. The second annual tour is set for this Saturday.

There are other big moneymakers around; auctions at several schools rake in well over $100,000. Alameda raised that much at its auction last year; the school's fundraising arsenal also includes a scrip program (earning cash by using gift cards to grocery stores and restaurants); T-shirts and sweatshirts with the school logo; and the typical book fairs, plant sales and, yes, wrapping paper sales.

In all, the Alameda School Foundation had $170,000 in its pot last year - a jaw-dropping amount compared with schools in other neighborhoods without active foundations that rely on their PTAs to raise money.

Fundraising gap opens

To take on something like the Alameda house project, 'I feel it takes somebody knowing somebody that has those type of resources,' said Stephanie Gaidosh, a parent at Humboldt Elementary, a Title I school in Northeast. 'A lot of PTAs have thousands in their account. This is the first year we have over $1,000.'

Gaidosh said those dollars came from a benefit from the McMenamins Little Chapel of the Chimes, near the school, which donated half of one evening's proceeds to Humboldt.

Gaidosh said she applauds Alameda parents for taking an innovative idea and supporting their school with all available resources. Ideally, the Humboldt PTA would utilize its community partnerships more in this way, she said, but organizing is difficult when barely 10 parents show up for any given PTA meeting.

Most of the school's parents are dealing with working two jobs, relying on public transportation and needing child care, she said.

'There's a major discrepancy in the 30-block area,' Gaidosh said. 'We're not that far from Alameda.'

The discrepancy spans the city, visible in each school's moneymaking power.

While all schools in the district have their own foundation accounts with the Portland Schools Foundation, eight have gained nonprofit status for their own, according to Tripp Somerville, a foundation spokesman.

They are Ainsworth, Bridlemile, Chapman, Duniway and Forest Park elementary schools; West Sylvan Middle School; and Lincoln and Cleveland high schools.

Somerville said that nine school foundations besides Alameda raised more than $100,000 last year; 14 schools raised between $25,000 and $100,000; 15 schools raised between $5,000 and $25,000; and 11 schools pulled in under $5,000.

TLC becomes transformation

Work on the lemon-yellow house at 2824 N.E. 46th Ave. still is under way, but already it's been vastly updated. Landers formed a separate nonprofit, Alameda Home Project LLC, and secured a loan from Albina Community Bank to buy the 1913 house, about a mile from the school.

'It was a great old Portland home, just needed a little TLC,' Landers said.

At first he was thinking he'd do some cosmetic fixes - install a new kitchen and apply some paint. But then the house sort of 'took on a life of its own,' he said. 'We took it to the next level, and then another one.'

The final product, a three-story home with four bedrooms and four bathrooms, measures out to about 2,850 square feet with a view of the West Hills from the upstairs bedroom windows. Nearly everything is new: plumbing, sewer, mechanical and electrical systems; top-floor framing; roof, gutters and hardwoods; and paint, inside and out.

But a lot has been preserved as well: The dark fir windows, doors and built-in shelving, as well as the hardware and the hearth on the main floor, are original.

Landers said the entire community has pitched in with the work.

Rejuvenation Inc. donated all the interior lighting and much of the interior trim and hardware. Sherwin-Williams donated all interior and exterior paint. Platt Electric Supply donated all of the electrical materials - only to have them stolen a few days after they were delivered. Pratt and Larson Ceramics donated the tile and granite for the kitchen and helped design the tile elements.

More than one potential buyer has expressed interest in the house. Carol Landers, who will be the listing agent, will donate her fees to the school.

Extra dollars help

Alameda's proceeds will be spent at the discretion of its principal, Teri Geist, who may decide to fund staff positions or save the funds for future use.

Doug Wicks, chairman of the Alameda School Foundation, said the student-teacher ratio at the school is about 30-to-1, so the ability to hire classroom aides in reading and math makes a big difference. The school has a librarian and P.E. teacher, supported by the district, and has a full-time music teacher now for the first time in a decade through funds from the foundation.

Wicks said he knows the stereotypes of his neighborhood, but its residents aren't a bunch of millionaires, he said.

'The last thing I want to do is portray Alameda as an amazingly affluent area,' he said. 'My wife is a public school teacher in Centennial, teaches disadvantaged kids. The guy across the street from me works on the Willamette, and his wife is a nurse. Yeah, we all work, all have decent jobs, but I ain't a millionaire.'

He added: 'Most communities can do this. This is not special because it's Alameda. … We all work. It takes a combination of factors - the most obvious is parents who are willing to step up.'

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