PTA Thrift Shop construction project raises concern

ceo

Shoppers browse at PTA Thrift Store on W Main St. on Saturday. 

A decrease in funding from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Thrift Shop has raised concerns and confusion among Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA members. 

The PTA Thrift Shop, which has helped fund local schools for 66 years, has significantly cut contributions in order to fund a $5 million construction project. The nonprofit organization operates separately from the PTA, but provided schools with unrestricted funds of close to $600,000 since 2010.

PTA Thrift Shop Executive Director Barbara Jessie-Black said the construction project was intended to create long term sustainability for the organization. The new building, YouthWorx on Main, collects rent from other organizations as part of a diversified income strategy. 

“The goal of building and having this capital expansion was to be sustainable going forward so that we have money to distribute,” Jessie-Black said.

In an email interview, a former PTA Council President Jeff Hall wrote that a lack of transparency in funding was causing frustration among parents and community members alike. 

“We were patient while the construction occurred and have been patient while the shop got adjusted," Hall said. "But enough is enough.”

Hall praised the thrift shop’s positive influence on the community, but worried that it was misleading customers by using the PTA’s brand. 

“To use the PTA name while continuing only minimal funding is unconscionable,” Hall said. “The thrift shop raises money and maintains community goodwill based on its perceived support for CHCCS, its families, teachers and students.”

Jessie-Black said she thought the PTA Thrift Shop was continuing it's tradition of supporting Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.

“This notion that somehow we are branding ourselves inappropriately, I don’t think it’s accurate,” Jessie-Black said. “We value our relationship with the PTAs tremendously, and continue to support that.”

Emily Martine, the PTSA president of Culbreth Middle School, expressed similar concerns about the use of the PTA’s name. 

“My main concern is that they are using the PTA name and such a tiny, tiny fraction of their budget is going to PTAs,” she said. “And I think that is misleading.”

Martine also said she was worried about how the loss of funding from the PTA Thrift Shop would affect students. 

“Our most immediate need is to make up for the money that we’re not getting from the thrift shop,” Martine explained. “So, as PTAs, we’re all scrambling.”

The former Executive Director of the Public School Foundation Kim Hoke, said the PTA Thrift Shop has provided generously for the local schools in the past, significantly funding technology, sports and other extracurriculars over the years. The loss of this income has left PTAs in a bad situation. 

“The PTA Thrift Shop had explained that while they opened the shop for a couple of years there wouldn’t be any proceeds, and I think PTAs tried to plan for that, but then that has continued,” Hoke said. 

Jessie-Black said the thrift shop hopes to use the expansion to continue that relationship with the PTA.

“The reason for the expansion has always been to secure the organization’s future going forward,” Jessie-Black said. “We are a 66-year-old organization and all of what we have done has put in place opportunities for us to be sustainable into the next 66 years.”

@karitoralarsen

city@dailytarheel.com

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