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INDEPENDENCE — After attending budget meetings this year, Grayson County teacher Janet Mullins woke up in the middle of the night with an idea.
As you'd expect from a math teacher, it was a number.
“I have to raise $1 million,” Mullins realized.
Her goal is to help county students and she says it’s time for the community to get behind the school system.
Mullins addressed the Grayson School Board during its June 21 meeting and updated them on the fundraising effort's progress. “I decided to sell items to the public and let them see what we’re doing for the children of Grayson County.”
Selling items is just the beginning, she told board members. Plans are to have auctions and various other events to raise the money.
In two and a half months, the Million Dollar Miracle campaign has raised $3,000 and funded its first project — paying for students to go on an FBLA trip.
“It’s not the supervisors against the school system,” Mullins said of the back-and-forth debate over how much the county is funding the school system and what others feel the county should provide. “It is us against the world. We are a school system that can raise the money and do the right thing.”
She added that the kids, teachers, community and parents are all worth fighting for and that it is worth raising the money to see that the students of Grayson County can have all their needs met.
“Our life in Grayson County is what we make it,” she said, noting that many businesses have already come on board and helped raise money.
“Our community, businesses, parents, kids, friends, teachers, groups and teams have blessed us with awesome support,” Mullins told The Gazette. “We started about April and have received money from all over the U.S. — from California, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York. It has been awesome.”
At a pep rally earlier this month, Mullins encouraged an auditorium full of students to support the campaign. Students in the audience cheered and waved handmade signs. Later, 8th graders released hundreds of balloons with the fundraiser's address attached.
The Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce has offered to help fund an auction and donated a television to be given away at the Smoke On The Mountain state barbecue championship in Galax next month.
“There are so many things planned already through the month of October,” Mullins told board members. “We’re not trying to steal money from the general public… it’s important that the community listens… we have an education system here that is worth funding.”
Mullins has spent the last 19 years working in Grayson schools and said she isn’t going anywhere. “I’m here and I want to stay here. I want our teachers to have the best salaries possible and I want our students to be able to do anything they want to do.”
If students need paper, she wants to fund it. If they need markers, it should be funded, she said.
One of Mullins’ students suggested the name “Million Dollar Miracle,” and Mullins said she plans to do everything in her power to make sure that goal is reached.
“I will work my proverbial tail off for you guys,” Mullins told the school board. “I will do everything in my power to make sure we put money in the bank.”
Mullins' only request for the board was to reinstate the five school days that were taken out of each teacher’s contract to save money during an extremely tough budget year.
“When we put a county together that’s as poor as ours, you’ve got to do the right thing, and the right thing is to put money in the school system,” Mullins said of the largest employer in Grayson. “I want you to give our employees our five days back, so we don’t have to have second jobs and can pay our bills.”
Mullins added that life in Grayson County is different than anywhere else. It’s laid back and there isn’t a large tax base.
“There are a lot of things we can’t do, but there are a lot of things we can do and there’s so much that we need to do,” she continued. “Any little thing I can do to get the community involved, I will. If it takes four years to raise one million dollars, I will do it. If it takes 10 years, I will be here.”
Upcoming events include a donkey basketball game this fall and an auction, as well as a table during Independence's July 4 celebration.
Mullins is using Facebook to promote the Million Dollar Miracle and is using some innovative methods to raise money.
She registered the project with www.Goodsearch.com, an online search engine that gives back 30 percent of purchases at online stores to the fundraiser.
Mullins also sent in an application to The Today Show's “What Do You Care About?” campaign. The prize is a $100,000 grant.
School Division Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas applauded Mullins and everyone working to take a proactive and creative approach to help the children of Grayson County during a time of great budget challenges.
School Director of Personnel Chad Newman agreed and said Mullins should be commended for the work she has done.
“It’s amazing the support she’s got right now,” he said. “People are reaching out. I know with her being the captain of this ship, it’ll make $1 million.”
The Million Dollar Miracle's Next Fundraiser is on July 3, as part of the Town of Independence's celebration,
Million Dollar Miracle will have a table set up, along with Mullins and Tina Vaughn, editor of The Declaration, in a dunking booth. For sale will be USA lapel ribbons, awareness bracelets, NASCAR hats, Grayson T-shirts and magnets.
An Online 'Miracle'
To learn more about the Million Dollar Miracle, find Janet Mullins on Facebook or visit www.causes.com/causes/475752.
The cause had 921 members registered as of June 25.
At causes.com, Mullins writes: “All children of this county will benefit from this fundraiser as it
will take pressure off the budget.
“We can support ourselves with no help from the board, we can pay for trips, projects, supplies, help needy families, provide community support, support sports, support the arts and money will be in an account to gain interest. Please help our school.
“We are the lowest-ranking school system in pay for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our county is cutting funding for our children. Letting our
children suffer from the cuts WILL NOT happen on my watch.”