About a dozen parents met in the staff room at Melrose Elementary School on Monday to have coffee with the principal and learn some of the things the school and its district have to offer students and parents.

Melrose Principal Tammy Rasmussen and Parent Teacher Action Network President Mariah Smith answered questions from parents of kindergartners on a variety of topics.

“I really enjoyed the questions,” Smith said. “These are the questions that we anticipate at the beginning of the school year. The next time there will be more questions and they will probably have something to do with things you have noticed around the school.”

The Parent Teacher Action Network, known as PTAN, has three “Coffee with the Principal” dates, providing parents with an informal setting to ask questions important to them.

The school and parent organization work together to put on more than a dozen events throughout the school year, working to raise money and creating a positive community culture.

PTAN prides itself on raising money through no-cost fundraising.

The majority of the funds come through Scrip cards, where local and national vendors sell gift cards at a discounted price to schools, which the organization then sells for face value.

“You buy gift cards for pretty much any purchasing you do ever,” Smith said. “We really want you to get used to looking at this and using them for your means when you’re going out to dinner, when you’re doing your grocery shopping.”

Money earned from the sale of gift cards, which are often available instantly at the school office, have paid for an instructional assistant.

PTAN also uses no-cost fundraising by clipping Box Tops and using school accounts for purchases with Amazon, Fred Meyer, and other businesses.

According to its website, Melrose PTAN raised more than $25,000 without costing supporters any extra money.

These funds have helped pay for school supplies. Smith pointed out that PTAN used no-cost fundraising options to purchase those supplies.

“Fred Meyer came through for us this year,” Smith said. On top of honoring coupons and a teacher discount, PTAN was able to pay using Scrip Cards and Fred Meyer Community Rewards. This means 4% of the cost would be donated back to the school through Scrip, and additional funds would come from the community rewards program.

A little more than a week before the start of the school year, Smith and vice president Rachel Nielsen gathered all the supplies into wagons to take to classrooms.

Each teacher received their requested supplies with a note and candy, courtesy of the parents and delivered by Smith’s and Nielsen’s children.

In addition to no-cost fundraising, the organization’s biggest moneymaker is its annual auction.

“I work hard to bring in people who are not part of the school, but love putting money toward the kids,” Smith said.

The students see these community contributions pay off by having events throughout the year, such as the father/daughter dance, mother/son night, the school carnival, the holiday dinner and many more.

Parents who want to volunteer for any of the events are asked to register on the app SignUpGenius, which will send out specific notifications and time slots for people who’d like to help.

Smith said she doesn’t help in her kids’ classrooms, but uses her skills and time to help in another way, “This is how I get involved, this is how I help.”

Melrose’s parent teacher action network has been organized since 1995, and has about a dozen people in attendance for monthly meetings and more signed up to volunteer.

The school is helping to get Scrip orders for other schools in Douglas County and is willing to help parents at other schools set up similar organizations.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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