Marblehead magic

Move over bake sales, candy drives and car washes — Marblehead’s Magic Hat Thrift Shop is a volunteer and community donation powerhouse that has generated more than $1 million for the town’s six Parent Teacher Organizations since 2005.

That success is a huge testament to a community’s willingness and commitment to helping out local public schools. Over two decades the money raised through thrift sales ranging from used clothing to dishes and other items has paid for motivational speakers and storytellers to come to schools and funded other programs that, in School Superintendent Maryann Perry’s words, “…enhance the daily curriculum.”

Initiatives like Magic Hat exist across the country and probably around the world. There is no shortage of people who want to literally go the extra mile or dig deeper into their pockets, purses or wallets to enrich education.

The motivation is simple: Almost everyone can remember a teacher, coach or opportunity in school that altered their life or set it on a new course. Those memories help fuel long-standing volunteer-based efforts like Magic Hat and they help weave them into the fiber of a community.

Four days a week, shoppers in search of deals walk through a door at the back of Veterans Middle School and start browsing racks of clothes and scanning shelves filled with items for sale.

A few dollars spent on that shirt or a couple of bucks spent on those shoes has translated into allocations of $10,000 on average every six months distributed to each of the town’s six schools. The money goes to Parent Teacher Organizations to help pay for ongoing PTO efforts to help local schools.

Magic Hat’s sustained success underscores the value of PTOs as fundraising sources and engines for inspiration. Children learn what volunteerism is all about when they see their parents and teachers outside of the home and classroom working together to help out their school.

Volunteers are made, not born and the factory for building future volunteers are PTOs and organizations like them that show kids first hand how to pitch in and do their part to improve the world around them.

The success achieved by Magic Hat is a testament to the love Marblehead residents have for their town and the pride they take in their schools. The thrift shop’s long-time volunteers remember naysayers shaking their heads and declaring the thrift shop wouldn’t succeed as a viable source of volunteer donations.

“One million dollars later — guess what — it worked,” said Wendy Roworth, president of the store’s nine-member board.

Magic Hat is a success, but its success is the product of many contributors: The people who shop in the store provide money for school donations. Tireless community contributors keep the racks and shelves stocked. One class after another in schools across Marblehead have benefited from the Magic Hat and learned lessons in the importance of improving schools by supporting PTOs and volunteerism.

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