Anyone who has purchased a You Can Lend a Hand coupon book from a local Catholic school student snared some deals on Burger King burgers, fine dining at Chili’s and Papa Vino’s Italian Kitchen and a discount on admittance to entertainment venues like Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs. But that purchase also gave a helping hand to “the highest quality education available to children,” in the words of Dan Fitzpatrick, chairman and CEO of Quality Dining — someone who finds it very gratifying to see Catholic school enrollment grow and outstanding teachers recognized for holding up the light of learning.
Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend receive the proceeds from the annual sale of You Can Lend a Hand coupon books, which are sometimes referred to as “Burger King coupon books.” Many put those proceeds into a general fund, where they help pay for various needs, including technology upgrades.
Sacred Heart School in Warsaw is slowly purchasing enough iPads so every student can have one. St. Joseph – Hessen Cassel School in Fort Wayne has used the money to continue adding to its library of computer programs: Last year it bought an accelerated-reading program, and this year its goal is to receive enough money to buy a program called Study Island.
St. Adalbert School, South Bend, has used coupon book money for outreach to Spanish-speaking parents, as well as for technology upgrades. St. Adalbert is not far from the former St. Casimir School, and classrooms there are gradually being renovated so St. Adalbert can offer music, art and gym classes. The former St. Casimir School building lacks the infrastructure for computers, a situation to which You Can Lend a Hand coupon book funds are being applied. A better vehicle is also needed to bus students between the two buildings.
Sometimes, however, schools earmark their You Can Lend a Hand money for specific purposes.
In addition to purchasing physical education equipment and replacing old textbooks with their portion of the proceeds, Queen of Angels School in Fort Wayne plans to buy music books and percussion instruments; St. Vincent de Paul School in Elkhart plans to buy new furniture and lighting for its cafeteria.
St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne has used its money to buy and post positive behavior signs throughout the school, replace worn playground equipment and have Catholic personality Jason Evert speak to middle schoolers about chastity. This year the school hopes to purchase more keyboards for the iPads students in grades three through eight take home: Those students who have already received one love being able to use more than two fingers to complete assignments, principal Cheryl Klinker said.
At St. Anthony de Padua School, South Bend, You Can Lend a Hand is the main fundraising event for its active Home and School Association. The group funds community-building events like an art-themed block party in downtown South Bend, and “Boo Hoo Yahoo” — a gathering for parents who are sad or glad the school year is starting. A priority this year is safety, so coupon book proceeds will be used to provide walkie-talkies to all staff members. Teachers will also be able to apply to HASA for minigrants to carry out special projects, such as a topographical map of Africa assembled from cake and candies.
Fitzpatrick recounted his days of collecting Green Stamps for the Catholic grade school he and his siblings attended in Toledo, Ohio. When they bought their first four Burger King restaurants in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan, area, the Fitzpatricks began offering assistance to Lake Michigan Catholic Schools, a struggling system with a high school and two small elementary schools. The first coupon books, issued in 1982, contained eight coupons and sold for $1.
Still eagerly participating in the program, today Lake Michigan Catholic is thriving.
The content and prices of the books have since changed, but the concept remains the same. Schools set their own goals and decide how many coupon books to order. They keep all the money their students collect for the books — a combined total of nearly $11 million over the past 37 years. Forty-six Catholic schools sell the books, including some beyond the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend — in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Gary dioceses.
Fitzpatrick sees collaboration among principals as a positive byproduct of Quality Dining’s efforts. Another is the students’ investment in the opportunity, which extends beyond the sales function. Every year, students are invited by Quality Dining to submit designs for posters schools can use to track their sales progress. This year’s winners are Kaitlynn Fowerbaugh, a sixth-grader at Huntington Catholic School, Huntington; and Darwin Kariuki, a fourth-grader at St. Jude School, South Bend.
Some of the schools provide fun incentives for their young coupon book salespersons. The top seller from St. John the Evangelist School, Goshen, wins a family pass to the Indianapolis Zoo and the Children’s Museum. Those selling 100 books or more at St. Jude get a limousine ride to lunch at a nearby Burger King. The top seller at St. Joseph School, Fort Wayne, gets to be principal for a day. Dress-down days, homework passes, pizza and ice cream are other popular rewards.
This year, everyone can lend a hand from Feb. 1-28, the scheduled dates of You Can Lend a Hand coupon book sales. Over 90,000 coupon books have been printed: To purchase one, talk to a Catholic school student or contact a nearby Catholic school.
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