WESTMINSTER — The lingering recession and last summer's drought have taken their toll on fund-raisers at New Windsor Middle School this year.
Students, many of whom come from farm families in the Wakefield Valley, have been less successful in selling candy, cheese and wrapping paper.
With fund-raising profits down, New Windsor's Parent-Teacher Organization decided to suspend further efforts.
That was until PTO President John Henkel learned about "Driving For Education," a new fund-raising program being offered to New Windsor and other Carroll public and private schools by Westminster Motors.
What Henkel and otherparents like about the fund-raiser is that it doesn't cost money andit doesn't require students to sell door to door. In fact, parents, friends and relatives will be put in the, er, drivers seat.
By test driving Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs at Westminster Motors, parents, friends and relatives can earn free Apple computers, audiovisual equipment and encyclopedias for participating schools.
A school that sends 250 test drivers to Westminster Motors during its designated week, for example, would receive an Apple Mac II computer with software. Participants must be 21 to test drive cars.
Westminster Motors has decided to participate in the nationwide General Motors program to address the need for computer and high-tech learning equipment in Carroll schools, said Lee Rawls, the dealership's general manager.
"I've been involved in every kind of promotion," said Rawls,who has been selling cars for 40 years. "I've never been this excited (about a sales program). It's not sales-directed or oriented. It's an opportunity for a dealer, if he chooses, to put something back into the community."
What Westminster Motors is looking for is prospective customers. But Rawls and other GM officials promised that parents, friends and family who test drive cars will not be subjected to ahigh-pressure sales pitch.
"Maybe somewhere down the road someonewill buy a car from us," Rawls said. "That's not our No. 1 priority.There will be no attempt to sell."
Henkel said the program comes at a good time -- a time when Carroll schools, like others across thestate, have been slashing budgets to meet state and local budget deficits.
"The school budget is lean to begin with," Henkel said. "That makes it more imperative that we take advantage of this to get more equipment. It's a good program. It gives us what they need and whatwe need."
Helen Straskulic and Anita Brewer of the East Middle School Parent-Teacher Association also endorsed the program.
"I think it sounds excellent," Straskulic said. "There's no money involved. It's not something that's going to conflict with sports fund-raisers.It's really something all schools can do."