Pete's Fundraiser

Pete’s chief operations officer Brenda Elsworth shows how much Pete’s convenience stores raised for the Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children programs Thursday at the Parsons Conference Center at the Holiday Inn Express.

In October, 45 Pumpin’ Pete’s stores in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri raised more than $60,000 for the Court Appointed Special Advocates for children programs that help kids removed from their homes for abuse or neglect.

Pete’s clerks asked customers as they purchased food or drink if they wanted to donate $1 to CASA in October. More customers said yes this year than last year. According to Brenda Elsworth, chief operations officer for Pete’s Corp., stores raised $60,646.26 in October. Last year, stores raised around $39,600. This is the eighth year that Pete’s has helped with CASA’s fundraiser.

“Our customers are wonderful,” Elsworth said.

On Thursday, CASA and Pete’s representatives gathered at the Parsons Conference Center at the Holiday Inn Express to award stores for their efforts at a wrap-up event for the fundraiser. Gratz Peters, owner of Pete’s Corp., also attended. 

Many organizations are experiencing fundraising challenges this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. CASA is no different. The charter had to cancel fundraisers and delayed the Pete’s fundraiser until October. The Pete’s fundraiser normally occurs in April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Peters said he was pleased with his customers’ and employees’ response to the CASA fundraiser.

“In a weird year like this it surprised us. It surprised everybody. People seem to be more generous now for some reason,” Peters said.

Pete’s employees worked hard to promote the fundraiser. Conducting it at the point of sale made more sense than setting out a bucket to collect donations, Peters said. Employees have improved their efforts over the years of promoting the CASA fundraiser and customers are more knowledgeable on what CASA does, he said.

Elsworth announced the money raised for each CASA charter. She said the 31st Judicial District’s CASA program, based in Iola, will receive $39,270.05. This district includes Neosho, Wilson, Woodson and Allen counties.

The Fourth Judicial District’s CASA program in Burlington will receive $172.45.

Northeast Oklahoma’s CASA program will get $12,697.46. Bourbon County’s CASA charter will receive $3,176.43. The newest charter (2019) in Jasper County, Missouri, will receive $5,329.87.

Elsworth also announced the grand prize winner of a $300 Pete’s gift card, Mark Padgett. To be eligible a customer had to donate $5. The donation was made at the former Stockyards Travel Plaza, which joined the Pete’s family in 2019.

Elsworth said the Pete’s store in Oologah, Oklahoma, raised the most cash. Stores in Miami, Oklahoma, and Pittsburg finished second and third, respectively. Smaller stores that may not have the same foot traffic were eligible for awards, too, she said. The top two stores whose dollars collected compared to sales were Fredonia and Miami, Oklahoma. Erie and Baxter Springs stores tied for third. The top two districts in sales were the southern district and the central district.

Aimee Daniels, executive director of the 31st Judicial District’s CASA program, spoke at Thursday’s wrap-up. Cynthia Jacobson, the 31st District’s CASA board president, spoke, too.

“You have no idea what this means to all the CASA programs that participate,” Daniels said. She said CASA canceled two fundraisers this year because of the pandemic, and for an organization that relies on donations, that’s tough.

“We appreciate you doing this for us every year, but this year you probably saved us,” she said.

During the pandemic, child in need of care cases have increased. Daniels said the 31st District had 209 CINC cases in 2019 and has had more than that so far this year.

CINC cases involve children in abusive or neglectful situations. These children can be removed from their homes and placed in foster care or with other family. Courts and advocates try to work with these families to eventually reunite the parents with the children. Sometimes parental rights can be terminated.

Jacobson thanked Pete’s Corp. for its dedication to CASA, even though the company cannot see the benefit provided to the children.

“You do make a difference,” Jacobson said.

“Just the right place and the right people,” Daniels told the Sun. “People have been very generous to support causes that help other people that have problems. So that’s very nice.”

Daniels said CASA in the 31st District gets more than 65% of its funding from donations. Evergy has an employee deduction available for CASA and Community National Bank and Bank of Commerce are also helpful to the organization. Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline helps with the golf fundraiser, which didn’t happen this year because of the pandemic. 

“Pumpin’ Pete’s has been very generous to us. I mean it’s just wonderful. They’re all in on the fundraiser,” Daniels said. “They work with all their employees about doing a really good job with it.”

“This is a big thing and it’s getting bigger all the time,” she said of the fundraiser and the growing number of CASA charters.

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