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Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTAs get state, national support for PTA Thrift Shop name change

PTA Thrift Shop’s roughly $5.5 million capital project including a renovated Carrboro thrift store (right) at 125 W. Main St., an expanded parking lot, and a new YouthWorx on Main building (background, left) for nonprofits working with Chapel Hill and Carrboro young people.
PTA Thrift Shop’s roughly $5.5 million capital project including a renovated Carrboro thrift store (right) at 125 W. Main St., an expanded parking lot, and a new YouthWorx on Main building (background, left) for nonprofits working with Chapel Hill and Carrboro young people. tgrubb@heraldsun.com

State and national PTA officials have joined a local call for the PTA Thrift Shop in Chapel Hill and Carrboro to remove the “PTA” from its name.

The action comes five months after the Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA Council gave thrift-shop leaders a July 15 deadline to change their name. The council has been seeking more information about the shop’s finances and its plan for restoring financial support for 19 local PTAs.

The PTA Thrift Shop’s board of directors said in a June news release that it would discuss the nonprofit’s ongoing mission, business model and commitment to the schools in the fall. It set no deadline for making a decision.

The PTA Thrift Shop, established in 1952, has not provided significant funding to the local PTAs since 2011, when it distributed roughly $265,000. In 2012, it shifted the money made from its second-hand sales to pay for a new Carrboro store and a nonprofit co-working center, YouthWorx on Main.

A 20-year mortgage on the roughly $5.5 million expansion was refinanced in 2016. The nonprofit also took out a separate $250,000 loan to cover unexpected costs. It still owed $4.6 million in June, with monthly payments of roughly $26,000, officials have said.

A recent email statement from the National PTA confirmed the organization has implemented an “action plan” to address the thrift shop’s use of “PTA” in its name. The North Carolina PTA is working with the national group, state PTA officials said.

“PTA Thrift Shop’s use of the PTA marks is causing confusion as to the affiliation, connection and association of the shop with PTA,” National PTA President Jim Accomando said. “The shop has changed its mission and is no longer affiliated with nor providing support to local PTAs. National PTA, North Carolina PTA and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA Council take this matter very seriously and are committed to ensuring it is resolved to protect our brand and mission. “

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Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA Council President Erin Schwie Langston referred questions about the national action to that organization. Local PTA officials have been asked not to comment, she said.

State and national PTA officials did not elaborate on the steps being taken. PTA Thrift Shop Executive Director Barbara Jessie-Black and PTA Thrift Shop Board of Directors Chair Dawn Edgerton did not respond to interview requests.

Concerns about the PTA Thrift Shop have escalated since 2016 as questions from parents, PTA officials and residents went unanswered.

PTA officials have noted Jessie-Black’s statements to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board in 2011 that the schools would be “flush with cash again” by the 2013-14 school year. If all goes as planned, she said, the schools could see their disbursements increase by 44 percent within five years — to nearly $400,000 a year, if not more.

Instead, the schools have received very little to no money since 2011. What has been handed out since 2015 are small Project Impact grants. The grants have provided less than $40,000 in four years for specific programs at individual schools.

The grant program is not helpful, PTA officials have said, because it takes a lot of volunteer time to apply and the program doesn’t help fill funding gaps for social services, afterschool programs, and teacher and classroom supplies. The PTAs have offered to give budgets to the PTA Thrift Shop board showing how the money is spent.

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The two sides took their concerns to mediation earlier this year, but the PTA Council dropped out in May, saying it did not think the PTA Thrift Shop was “forthcoming with financial information or a concrete plan to restore disbursements.”

PTA Council officials said the PTA Thrift Shop and its board also have not followed through on another promise: to reach out to local PTA members and the PTA Council for feedback.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.


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