Monday, June 1, 2020
Coronavirus Pinata? Papoose Club Gets Creative to Keep Cash Flowing to Kids
Anna Mathieu and Barbara Bentley won’t get the opportunity to help with the Webb Plant Sale this year.
Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Could you get into whacking a pinata that looks like a coronavirus?

That’s what members of the Papoose Club are trying to figure out as they try to come up with new fundraising ideas in a year in which their tried and true fundraisers have been knocked off the calendar.

The club, which raises money for youth causes, elected not to hold its annual Webb Plant Sale this month because of how the pandemic has hurt small businesses like Webb Nursery. And members decided to shelf the Wagon Days Pancake Breakfast for a year because of uncertainty about how many people might turn out for it in a year when Wagon Days has been downsized.

“Webb has been so wonderful and generous over the years, donating 20 percent of the sales on that day. We decided to let them off the hook this year—we told them, ‘Take care of your employees,’ ” said Lee Dabney, president of the Papoose Club. “We're holding out hope for the Holiday Bazaar, but that’s only one of our three main fundraisers.”

The Papoose Club gave out more than $28,000 last year, money raised from the plant sale, pancake breakfast and holiday bazaar.

Members elected to give The Hunger Coalition $2,500 for baby formula last month.  And they granted the last of their funds to the Blaine County Recreation District for summer camp scholarships, to the Hunger Coalition’s Bloom truck, which takes meals and books to children during the summer, and to the Community Library for its summer reading program.

“Papoose Club fills an important and unique role in the valley,” said Susan Giannettino, one of 126 members. “Any kid who has grown up here in the last 50 years has benefitted from the funds raised and given away.”

But with the cupboards now bare, the group’s members are trying to come up with alternative ways to raise funds--with social distancing.

“That’s why we thought of a corona pinata,” said Dabney. “Maybe you feel like going outside and beating something right now. We could get custom-made coronavirus pinatas and maybe people could get creative and fill them with something like plastic bottles of merlot. A sense of humor is so important right now. I know I’d send one to each of my sisters.”

Other possibilities, Dabney said, could include something like a TikTok video challenge where creators pay $5 to enter the competition and the person who gets the most likes wins.

Papoose Club was founded in 1954 by a group of local moms who wanted to take turns babysitting one another’s children so the others could go skiing. It has evolved into an organization that supports organizations dealing with youth in the valley.

It costs just $20 a year to be a member—the club recently added its first three male members. Members are boots on the ground, showing up to donate their time at the things that raise money, like the plant sale, the pancake breakfast and the bazaar.

“It’s unique in the sense that it’s not like the Museum for the Arts, which has its Wine Auction fundraiser, or 100 Men Who Care where the money comes solely from donations,” said Giannettino. “We’re a bunch of retirees, grandmothers and mothers that raise money through membership dues and holding events.”

The organization considered asking the Spur Foundation and Idaho Gives for money, but members decided they didn’t want to take away from organizations like The Hunger Coalition or The Advocates that are seeing a huge demand for their services during the pandemic.

“We’re looking at the idea of asking our members if they can pay a little more this year. And maybe lifetime members, who don’t have to pay a membership fee after 10 years, could chip in a little this year, too,” said Dabney.

Dabney figures the group has until August or September to raise money to accommodate the regulars who seek funds every year.

That includes those asking for scholarship funding, ensuring youngsters can go skiing, ice skating or to special events like Company of Fools matinees.

“There’s going to be so many needing these scholarships because of the shutdown of the economy,” said Dabney. “We give $500, $1,000 or $2,000 to libraries, PTAs, school clubs, travel clubs. We’re not the biggest donor out there but we’re consistent and we’ve been doing this for 50-plus years. It’s an institution, one of the things that makes this valley great.”

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