PA Forward: Working at the Car Wash: Teens and Financial Literacy | Compendium


Sarah Applegate

Sarah Applegate


Sarah Applegate

On August 8, 2015 we had our final Summer Reading Club program for the teen group at Coyle Free Library, which turned out to be a fundraiser for the fall.  I was hesitant about hosting a car wash with a group of teenagers at first but, let me tell you, it was fantastic!


Car Washing: The Basics
A few months in advance I contacted Advance Auto Parts in Chambersburg about setting up a date and time for our car wash.  I reserved a four-hour slot for Saturday and asked a few basic questions because I had never done this sort of program before.  For example:

  • Question: Do we need to bring our own supplies (i.e. buckets, soap, sponges)?
    Answer: No; Advance Auto Parts provided everything we would need.
  • Question: What does it cost to host our car wash there?
    Answer: No charge; we keep all the money we make that day.

How We Did It
At a teen program a few weeks in advance I had the teens make posters for those lucky few who would be standing on street corners fishing for customers.  We went over appropriate attire and behavior (I know, I know, good luck with that!) and added lots of glitter to the posters.

So when the day came, my co-worker and I got there about fifteen minutes before the teens were to arrive so that we could get things set up.  We got the supplies from Advance Auto Parts and parked our cars on the side.  The teens came, we decided on a suggested donation of $5 per car, and we got to work.  The rule was that at least two people had to be on the sidewalk with posters and at no time was anyone to be alone at the sidewalk; the rest were on car wash duty.  We rotated car washers and sign holders every half hour or so.  We also applied sunscreen every half hour or so.  About halfway through the day a mom brought us some extra water bottles and snacks, for which we were all grateful.  I had brought some juice boxes for a sugar boost but everyone loves options.PA Forward Logo of Five Literacies

Overall we washed 22 cars and raised almost $300!  It was a great success all around and we’re hoping to use the money this fall for trips to play laser tag and possibly to go to  Hersheypark for Christmas Candylane.  We are all going to come together to plan and budget what we can do with our earnings.   Most of the group had gotten jobs at the beginning of the summer and are familiar with financial literacy at its heart – what to save and what to spend.  They know that the programs we put together cost money and are aware of the budget the library is given each year.  We’ve talked about assigning one teen as our “treasurer” to be in charge of group financing but I’ve begun to think that maybe we’ll simply keep a notebook for everyone to refer to when it comes to our budget.  That way they are not only all a part of earning the money for their adventures and deciding on how to spend it, but they also know how much it costs to go bowling and see movies and whatever else we do that month.

Other Fundraising Ideas
As we all know, there are many options out there for fundraising.  I like to involve the teens as much as possible so selling tickets or food items is always good.  Here in Chambersburg we have a local grocery store through which you can set up a fundraiser to sell sub and pizza tickets.  They are very popular here.  Don’t forget that many restaurants have nights where proceeds will benefit your cause if you’ve reserved a time and sent flyers out into the community.