Orange County

PTA Thrift Shop says not so fast to PTA Council's request for 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

The PTA Thrift Shop board said Wednesday it will think over the summer about whether to remove the word "PTA" from the nonprofit's name.

The board of directors said in a letter to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA Council that its members "were surprised to have received your request to remove the reference to PTA from our name." The board will begin a conversation about the request later this month, it said.

The PTA Council made the request Monday, noting that it has been trying for nearly a year to get information about the PTA Thrift Shop's finances and when it might resume giving part of its profits from second-hand sales to local schools.

The thrift shop has diverted the money over the last several years to pay the mortgage on a new store building and the YouthWorx on Main building in Carrboro. The thrift shop also leases retail space in Chapel Hill for its second store.

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The PTA Council also pointed out that "PTA" is trademarked by the National PTA, and use of the name comes with requirements, from paying dues to providing an annual financial review.

The board rejected that argument Wednesday, saying the name "PTA Thrift Shop" is not copyrighted, and the nonprofit's use of the name since 1952 gives it a common-law trademark.

The thrift shop values its partners and remains committed to supporting students, families and teachers by providing money to the PTAs, the letter said, including through its Project Impact grants and other "youth-focused initiatives."

"We have acknowledged and continue to share your frustration as to the lack of distributions provided to the PTAs since 2012, and are making every effort to re-establish these distributions," it said.

The letter noted that the board offered to enter mediation last year with the PTA Council through Carrboro's Dispute Settlement Center. The thrift shop board is still interested in talking with local PTAs and the PTA Council, it said.

"Unfortunately, your organization chose to withdraw from the mediation process before these issues could be fully discussed," the letter said. "We invite you back to the mediation process in the interest of an amicable outcome."

PTA Council President Lisa Kaylie responded to the board's letter Wednesday evening with a clarification. The council and thrift shop entered mediation at the suggestion of the YouthForward board, which manages the YouthWorx building, she said.

"PTA Council unanimously voted to end the mediation process significantly due to the fact that the PTA Thrift Shop was not forthcoming with financial information or a concrete plan to restore disbursements," Kaylie said.

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The PTA Thrift Shop's support for local PTAs had grown to about $265,000 a year by 2011, when the thrift shop embarked on its building projects. Since then, the PTAs have received a total of $119,000. The thrift shop also provided $31,838 to individual schools since 2015 through its Project Impact grants.

Records show the PTA Thrift Shop still owed more than $4.4 million on its mortgage as of June 30, 2017, up from $3.8 million the year before. The mortgage was refinanced and increased in 2016, and the nonprofit added another $250,000 loan to cover unexpected project costs.

The current mortgage amount and the timetable for fully repaying the debt is not currently available, PTA Thrift Shop executive director Barbara Jessie-Black said Tuesday.

PTA Thrift Shop Executive Director Barbara Jessie-Black explains why it was important to use PTA Thrift Shop profits to build a renovated store and the YouthWorx on Main project in Carrboro.

She has noted that the new YouthWorx building, which provided low-rent space to roughly a dozen youth-oriented nonprofits, is part of a long-term plan to compete for bigger grants and increase the amount of funding available to support schools and young people.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb
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