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0985 School Fundraisers

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 985 – School Fundraisers.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 985. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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This dialogue is about trying to raise money – trying to get money – for some activity at your school. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Valerie: What’s this?

A.J.: It’s a note from Rachel’s school. It’s about the next fundraiser.

Valerie: Oh no, not another one. What is it this time – a raffle, car wash, or spaghetti dinner?

A.J.: It’s none of those things. It’s a combination bake sale and craft sale. Parents are supposed to donate baked goods and handmade items.

Valerie: This is crazy. Every month there’s something else. Last month, it was a candy sale. I had to hit up everybody at work, and that’s on the tail of raffle tickets the month before. It’s like this every year.

A.J.: I know. We already donated a lot of things to the rummage sale last semester and gift certificates for the silent auction two months ago. With two kids in two different schools, I feel like we never get a breather.

Valerie: I know, and there’s more. Brian’s school is asking parents to buy a brick that will be part of a new school building and our names will be engraved on it.

A.J.: You’re kidding, right? One more fundraiser and my name will get engraved, all right – on my tombstone!

[end of dialogue]

Valerie begins our dialogue by saying to A.J., “What’s this?” A.J. says, “It’s a note from Rachel’s school.” A “note” here means a piece of paper with information on it. Schools often send information back to parents, or at least they used to, by giving the students pieces of paper that the students would then deliver to the parents. Nowadays, I guess they could just email the information. A.J. says this note is “about the next fund raiser.” A “fundraiser” (fundraiser) is an event organized by some organization to make money.

One of the things that surprises people about American schools when they come here is that even though our public schools are free, the schools often have activities, events, in order to make more money for special programs for the students of the school. For example, if you have a football team or musical group that you want your students to participate in, the government may not give the school enough money for the school to organize that. So, the parents have fundraisers where they try to get money by doing a variety of different things.

Valerie talks about some of those things in her reply to A.J. She says, “Oh no, not another one,” meaning not another fund raiser. “What is it this time – a raffle, carwash, or spaghetti dinner?” Valerie lists three popular ways that schools and other organizations try to get money. A “raffle” (raffle) is basically a lottery. It’s an arrangement where people by tickets with the chance of winning one or more prizes, such as money or an iPod or sometimes even a car. That’s a “raffle.”

A “car wash” is an event where a group of people, usually students or young adults, get together and they wash people’s cars in order to get money for their group. We used to do this when I was growing up. The school I went to would sometimes have car washes, where the students would go and wash people’s cars for five dollars or seven dollars – I don’t remember how much – and they would give that money then to the group so that the group would have money to do whatever it is they wanted to do.

“Spaghetti dinners” were also very popular when I was growing up. Spaghetti dinners are when usually a group of students prepares food for people to eat, and then people pay, of course, to get the spaghetti dinner. Spaghetti was popular because it was easy and somewhat inexpensive to make. A.J. says this fundraiser is not a raffle, not a car wash, or a spaghetti dinner. He says, “It’s none of those things.” He says, “It’s a combination bake sale and craft sale.” These are two other popular fundraisers that are used by schools. A “bake sale” is when different people bake cakes and cookies and other sweets, and sell them.

A “craft (craft) sale” is where people make things – not things you eat, but things like ornaments or decorations for your house. People make these things, and then the group sells them and keeps the money, of course, from the sale. “Parents are supposed to donate baked goods and handmade items,” according to A.J. “To donate” (donate) means to give to a person or group without expecting anything back. When you donate money or donate things to a group, you give them to the person or the group. A.J. is saying that the parents are supposed to donate things for the bake sale and for the craft sale.

Valerie says, “This is crazy,” meaning she doesn’t like this idea. “Every month there’s something else. Last month it was a candy sale.” A “candy sale” is when a school or organization buys candy from a company and then sells that candy at a higher price. It of course keeps the difference between the money it spent to buy the candy and the money it got selling the candy. Once again, this is something we did at our school when I was going to high school and grade school. We had candy sales every year where we had to go out and sell these chocolate candies by going around and asking people to buy them.

Valerie says that she “had to hit up everybody at work.” “To hit up” is a phrasal verb which here means to ask someone for money – in this case, to ask someone to buy the candy bars. Parents often help their children sell this candy by asking their friends at work to buy the candy. I’ve done that many times in the places where I’ve worked.

Valerie says that these sales are “on the tail of raffle tickets the month before.” Something that is “on the tail (tail) of” something means it comes immediately after that. Dogs and other animals have tails – little parts of their bodies that go off the end of their body, the back of their body. That’s what “tail” means. It means the end of something. Valerie says, “It’s like this every year,” meaning every year they have all of these different fundraisers.

A.J. says, “I know. We already donated a lot of things to the rummage sale last semester.” A “rummage (rummage) sale” is similar to a “garage sale” or a “yard sale,” but is typically held by a group, usually in a large auditorium or in a large area outside of, in this case, the school. A rummage sale is when people donate things they no longer want any more, and the organization takes those things and sells them to other people. Usually it takes place on one day, or over a two-day period. Many schools and other religious organizations have rummage sales in order to make money for their group.

A.J. also says that he and Valerie donated gift certificates for the silent auction two months ago. A “gift certificate” is usually a piece of paper you buy that allows you to spend a certain amount of money at a store. Nowadays, it’s much more common to have gift cards, which are like little credit cards but are used only for one particular store and have a certain amount of money on them. A “silent auction” (auction) is an event where people write their name on a list to show how much money they’re willing to pay for something.

An “auction” is normally when things are sold to the person that will give the highest price. There isn’t one set, or fixed, price. A “silent auction” is the same concept, except you don’t have somebody standing up and trying to sell it in front of a group of people; rather, you have a list next to each thing that’s being sold, and you go around and you put down the price you’re willing to pay. We would call that price, in an auction, your “bid” (bid).

A.J. says, “With two kids in two different schools, I feel like we never get a breather.” A.J. and Valerie have two children, and they are attending, or going to, two different schools. Each school will have its own fundraisers. That means a lot of fundraisers for A.J. and Valerie. That’s what A.J. is talking about when he says, “I feel like we never get a breather” (breather). A “breather” is a time to breathe, literally, but it means here a break, a period of time when you can rest.

Valerie says, “I know, and there’s more. Brian’s school is asking parents to buy a brick that will be part of a new school building and our names will be engraved on it.” When an organization is building a new building, they’ll often try to raise money for that building by selling bricks, and these are bricks that will go into the wall, that will have the person who gave the money’s name on it. The name will be “engraved” (engraved) on the brick.

“To engrave” means to use a special tool that puts writing on typically a piece of metal, although we also use that verb when talking about putting words in stone or on a very hard surface like a brick. I actually used to work, when I was in high school and in college, at a place that did engraving, so I would put people’s names on cups – on silver cups or on other signs that they would put on their door, for example. That’s “engraving.”

Schools and other organizations try to raise money for new buildings by selling bricks for 500 dollars or a thousand dollars. You can’t just bring a brick and give it to the school and say, “Well, here’s my brick.” You’re not buying the brick, of course. You’re just donating money, and this is a way of recognizing your donation. A.J. says, “You’re kidding, right?” meaning you’re joking, aren’t you? But, of course, Valerie is not joking.

“One more fundraiser and my name will get engraved, all right – on my tombstone!” Your “tombstone” (tombstone) is a large stone that is placed above where you are buried when you die. We call that place where they put your body a “grave” (grave). Traditionally, tombstones on graves have the person’s name, the year they were born and the year they died, sometimes the actual date of their birth and death, and possibly a short message.

A.J. is joking, of course. He’s saying that there are so many fundraisers that they are going to kill him with all this extra work. That’s why he says, “One more fundraiser” – meaning if I have to participate in one more fundraiser – “and my name will get engraved, all right – on my tombstone!” “All right” here means for sure, or definitely.

Of course, that could be another fundraiser. Schools could sell tombstones, and you could have your name engraved on it and just leave the date of your death blank. You wouldn’t fill that in until you actually died. I’m just kidding, of course.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Valerie: What’s this?

A.J.: It’s a note from Rachel’s school. It’s about the next fundraiser.

Valerie: Oh no, not another one. What is it this time – a raffle, car wash, or spaghetti dinner?

A.J.: It’s none of those things. It’s a combination bake sale and craft sale. Parents are supposed to donate baked goods and handmade items.

Valerie: This is crazy. Every month there’s something else. Last month, it was a candy sale. I had to hit up everybody at work, and that’s on the tail of raffle tickets the month before. It’s like this every year.

A.J.: I know. We already donated a lot of things to the rummage sale last semester and gift certificates for the silent auction two months ago. With two kids in two different schools, I feel like we never get a breather.

Valerie: I know, and there’s more. Brian’s school is asking parents to buy a brick that will be part of a new school building and our names will be engraved on it.

A.J.: You’re kidding, right? One more fundraiser and my name will get engraved, all right – on my tombstone!

[end of dialogue]

“The Greatest Scriptwriter on the Internet” – that’s what I think they should put on Lucy Tse’s tombstone one day (one day very, very far away, of course).

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
fundraiser – an event organized to make money for an organization or cause

* Each year, the animal shelter sells tickets to a formal dinner as a fundraiser.

raffle – lottery; an arrangement where many people purchase tickets to have an opportunity to win one or more prizes, but with the understanding that most people will not win

* They’re selling $5 raffle tickets for an opportunity to win a sports car.

car wash – an event where a group of people washes cars informally, usually without a set price but with the expectation that money will be given to the group

* The high school cheerleaders are doing a car wash at the grocery store this weekend to raise money for new uniforms.

spaghetti dinner – a meal of long noodles and a tomato-based sauce, often used as a fundraiser where people pay money to eat

* Each fall, the firefighters cook a spaghetti dinner and community members pay $8 each.

bake sale – an event where people purchase homemade baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and pies, usually to raise money for a school or organization

* Aunt Gertrude is donating her delicious brownies for bake sale at her nephew’s school.

craft sale – an event where people purchase handmade items, especially decorative items, usually to raise money for a school or organization

* Many people go to craft sales in November and December to buy Christmas presents for friends and family members.

to donate – to give a thing or money to an organization

* We should donate our old clothes to the local women’s shelter rather than throwing them away.

candy sale – a period of time when children sell candy so that a percentage of the money is given to their school

* It seems strange to teach children about good nutrition, but then ask them to participate in candy sales to raise money for the school.

to hit up – to ask someone for money

* How often do you hit up your parents for money?

on the tail of – immediately after; at the end of something; following

* I wish our anniversary weren’t on the tail of all the holidays, because we’re always too tired to celebrate it.

rummage sale – a garage sale or yard sale; an event where people sell used items that are still in good or fair condition, especially to raise money for school or organization

* The church members are donating items for the rummage sale, and the proceeds will be used to send missionaries overseas.

gift certificate – a piece of paper that allows one to spend a certain amount of money at a particular store or restaurant

* Krystal received a gift certificate for a haircut at a local beauty salon.

silent auction – an event where people write their name on a list to show how much money they are willing to pay for various items, especially to raise money for an organization

* The most popular item at the silent auction was an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland.

breather – a break; a period of time when one can rest and relax

* Blake is a tax preparer, so he’s working a lot and won’t get a breather until after tax season.

brick – a rectangular block, usually red or brown, made from clay, used to make walls and buildings

* Do you prefer brick fireplaces, or stone fireplaces?

to engrave – to use a special tool to carve or scratch words into a piece of glass, metal, or stone

* Each award is engraved with the recipient’s name and the date.

tombstone – a large stone placed above a grave (where a body is buried) with the name, date of birth, date of death, and possibly a short message

* Many tombstones say “RIP” meaning “rest in peace.”

Comprehension Questions
1. Why aren’t Valerie and A.J. excited about the fundraiser?
a) Because they’re tired of being asked to help the school raise money.
b) Because they don’t think the school needs to raise any more money.
c) Because they don’t think most of the money will benefit the school.

2. Which of these fundraisers involves food?
a) A bake sale.
b) A rummage sale.
c) A craft sale.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to hit up

The phrase “to hit up,” in this podcast, means to ask someone for money: “The mayor is hitting up taxpayers for more funds to pay for public transportation.” The phrase “to hit the road” means to start a journey: “We’ll finish packing tonight and then hit the road early tomorrow morning.” The phrase “to hit a brick wall” means to not be able to continue doing something: “At first, his Spanish improved quickly, but then he hit a brick wall when he ran out of books to read in the language.” Finally, the phrase “to hit it off with (someone)” means to instantly like another person and begin a relationship: “I think you and my cousin would really hit it off, because you have a lot of similar interests.”

brick

In this podcast, the word “brick” means a rectangular block, usually red or brown, made from clay, used to make walls and buildings: “In the children’s book The Big, Bad Wolf, the wolf isn’t able to blow down the house made of bricks.” The phrase “bricks and mortar” refers to a physical store, not an online business: “Bricks and mortar bookstores are struggling to stay in business when online bookstores can sell so many more books at lower prices.” Finally, the phrase “to bang (one’s) head against a brick wall” means to be in a very difficult situation and unable to make progress: “Trying to persuade these lawmakers to vote in our favor is like banging my head against a brick wall. They never listen.”

Culture Note
School-Business Partnership Fundraisers

As “school funding” (the amount of money available to pay for schools) is “cut” (reduced), many school “administrators” (people who lead a school, not teachers) have to become creative in organizing new fundraisers that will bring in much-needed money without “tapping out” (taking all of someone’s money) students’ families. So many schools are creating partnerships with local businesses, hoping to receive money and “in-kind donations” (donations of items, not money) in exchange for providing advertising opportunities and access to students’ families.

For example, some businesses donate “space” (room) to schools for special events, and in exchange they get to promote their business to the event participants. Other businesses donate their products to the schools, which then sell them in fundraising events while “acknowledging” (recognizing and thanking) businesses for their support.

Some restaurants have special fundraising evenings where they give a percentage of all money they earn during a certain period of time to the school. The school has an “incentive” (motivation; reason for doing something) to encourage students’ families to go to that restaurant on the “designated” (set; established for a particular purpose) evening, so the restaurant has more customers than usual and hopes that some of those customers will become “repeat customers” (customers who go there again).

Other businesses sponsor special events, like sports championships, in exchange for “signage” (signs with a company’s name and/or logo) placed at the event. Sometimes those businesses send their employees to volunteer at those events, too, which can improve the business’s “reputation” (how someone is viewed by others) “in the eyes of” (in the opinion or perspective of) students’ families.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a