The vibrant Valdosta Quotarians stay busy during the holiday season and wrap up a tidy profit from a major fund-raising project at the local shopping mall.
The American holiday of Thanksgiving, a day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November in gratitude for the nation’s bounty, marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. Since customers cram stores and shopping centers from Thanksgiving to the end of December in search of gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations, the Valdosta club has capitalized on the needs of hurried holiday buyers and put them under wraps.
Gift wraps, that is.
A decade ago, the club was invited by the local Hebrew Congregation’s Hadassah group to help with its gift-wrap project. The Quota club accepted the job and earned $500 for their coffers. “What a shot in the arm that was,” says project chair Barbara Tomlinson, “and boy did we need the money!”
After several years of assisting Hadassah, the Quota club took over the project. “They decided they were too old for this much fun,” notes Barbara, “and thought they would let ‘the young folks’ take over.”
The youthful verve of Valdosta Quotarians has transformed this little gift-wrapping service into a major moneymaker. Last year, the club grossed over U.S.$9,600 during more than 780 volunteer wrapping hours, or approximately 15 hours per club member. “That’s a long way from our first $500,” Barbara laughs. “And that, ladies, is a LOT of wrapped gifts!”
This year, the club hopes to top last year’s profits by logging over 850 hours from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. “The week of Christmas, we cannot wrap the gifts fast enough. And the fun part is watching the faces of our men customers. At that point, they will pay ANYTHING for a wrapped present!” Barbara adds.
So how do we do it?
Just as in real estate, the first hurdle is location, location, location. Several months before Thanksgiving, the club identifies a place to hold the fund raiser. “We have always been fortunate to be welcome inside the mall, and we’ve had a series of locations there. Sometimes we’ve been able to store our supplies in a vacant store, but the best place to wrap is one with a lot of exposure and traffic. We like to set up outside the Sears store.”
Once the location is determined, supplies must be ordered—wrapping paper, boxes, tape, dispensers, paper cutters, ribbon, bows, gift cards, seals, anything needed to wrap a gift. The day before Thanksgiving, club members set up their booth, decorating with banners, sample gift wrappings, and, of course, their Quota club banner. At noon on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the club starts wrapping packages. “As you can imagine, the first one is a thrill,” says Barbara, “and, believe me, the last one is a thrill, too!”
But Barbara cautions that the project is not without surprises. “Each year has its own special story. One year we had to MAKE a box for a carousel horse that was about three feet tall and two feet wide! One year we wrapped an engagement ring in several different boxes nestled inside one another. One year we wrapped an oar. Each creative challenge creates an even more creative story!”
As for the cash, the club attends to profits daily. Beginning with $50 in change, the club removes its daily profits from the cash box at the close of each business day. A duplicate deposit slip is placed in the cash box along with the $50 in change, which encourages club members to tally profits they are earning for the club. Meanwhile, the profits are deposited in the bank, and the cash box is left for safekeeping with one of the shopkeepers in the mall.
On the day after Christmas, the Valdosta club returns to tear down the booth and take an inventory of supplies to begin the project the following year. “Things will be pretty messy by the time everyone leaves on Christmas Eve, so cleanup will be a challenge,” Barbara says. “But, from the beginning, the project is a fun way to get to know each other in the club, to see people in the mall smiling and happy, and it’s a wonderful way to make money for such a worthy cause.”