Graves: Here's a fundraiser that provides quite a splash

What I have done — and secretly really enjoy doing — is take part in County Fair’s celebrity bagging fundraiser, the Friday each year preceding Thanksgiving. I

Superintendent Joe Graves
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I am not a big fan of fundraisers. That may seem odd coming from me inasmuch as the Mitchell School District spawns literally dozens of them. I wish there was some funding mechanism by which all of our organizations, activities, PTA/Os, and classes could be sufficiently flush with cash that no fundraisers were even necessary.

Alas, I have never worked at a school or district that was able to just fund everything to an extent that these "extras" became extraneous.

What has changed for me over the years is my level of participation in them. I still purchase discount cards, frozen food, popcorn, raffle tickets, and every other form of merchandise being sold by students. But I almost never actually participate in the fundraiser. By that, I mean I don’t usually become the agent of funds raised.

Well, not anymore.

Many years ago, in a school district in Iowa, their scholarship board, on which I also served, asked me to take a last-minute turn in the carnival dunk tank. I was trying to find a way to demur when the chair of that board walked by me, towel in hand, to take a turn. His balding head ringed by white wisps of hair told me all I needed to know. His grandchildren told me even more. If this elderly man could do it (and, yes, I suspect he was about as old as I am now), how could this young principal refuse?


As he finished up, I climbed atop the board that held me aloft above the waters of the tank. My father carried Katie, my oldest daughter, barely a toddler, up to the target and showed her how to slap it. She provided me my first ducking. The line behind grew exceedingly long. After a dozen or so throwers had proven equally successful, the already shallow water level had dipped even lower, as splash after splash sent the contents on to the yard. Finally, it had fallen so much that a subsequent throw dropped me hard to the cement pad below. It took much of two years to rid myself of the resulting back pain. I haven’t been in a dunking booth since.

What I have done — and secretly really enjoy doing — is take part in County Fair’s celebrity bagging fundraiser, the Friday each year preceding Thanksgiving. If my math is correct, I only missed one year and so have been hard at work, apron and name tag in place, for 22 of the last 23. I liked it from the start because I worked in a grocery store during high school and enjoyed that experience. How often do you get to revisit your first real job? Even if you find you don’t like it anymore, hey, it’s only an hour.

But I do like it. I like the challenge of bagging fast enough to keep up with the checkers. (This is almost impossible these days because they no longer have to punch in the prices. Cheaters.) I like seeing what everyone is having for Thanksgiving. I like taking the groceries out to the cars. I like sneaking the occasional Oreo out of those resealable packages. (Just kidding about that last one.)

I also enjoy the occasional unexpected moments. Like the at least two separate times when a grocery cart heaped with beer and spirits pulled up to the check stand and the school employee behind only managed to notice who the bagger was when it was too late to put it into reverse. Or the community member who studied my face and, in all seriousness, finally just asks — Are things really that tough that the school superintendent had to take a second job sacking groceries? Or the middle-aged woman, furious about some misunderstanding or a checker’s failure to accept a coupon, who decided she must let me know, in no uncertain terms, that we need to change our ways! And I never got around to letting her now that I’m not a regular employee.

So, if you’d like me to bag your groceries, show up that Friday before Thanksgiving around 4 or 4:30. You’ll have to wait a year now but, never fear, I’ll be there.

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