Ms Cheap: Gold trumps Tupperware as theme for fundraisers

Ms-Cheap (3K)

by Ms. Cheap
featured in the December, 13, 2008 issue of The Tennessean.

Mary Hance's Ms. Cheap columns appear on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. She is the author of Ms. Cheap's Guide to Getting More for Less.

It used to be that people had bake sales or raffles to raise money for their favorite charity.

Well, now they're going for the gold. Literally. As in precious metals.

I had never heard of a "gold melt party'' until several weeks ago when there was one to benefit Siloam, which provides affordable health care to the uninsured in our community. But the more I heard, the more I liked the idea. Here's the deal: Julie Schoerke, a supporter of Siloam, approached the organization's development director, Lisa Ellis, with her clever party pitch.

The plan was to organize a gathering - a dessert party - where guests would bring their unwanted gold, silver and other metal pieces and have Cashville Gold & Silver Buyers - Julie's public relations client - weigh and evaluate it and buy it, and then the guest would give a portion of their proceeds to Siloam.

"Gold parties are the rage around the country and have come to Nashville,'' Julie said, noting that Cashville has been seeing a jump in the number of people "recycling'' their old stuff as the Christmas crunch draws nearer. "Women who want to have some money for Christmas gifts are selling their old, broken, discarded jewelry and silver pieces to get money for gifts for their families this year,'' she said.

So, Julie said, why not make it easy for these metal-hoarding mamas by having someone host a party in their home and letting Cashville come to them for the weigh-in and payoff.

"It just popped in my mind as a win-win kind of opportunity,'' she said.

Well, everybody loved the idea, and the party was planned at the Vanderbilt-area home of Heather Wills, who invited about a dozen women - mostly ladies from her children's school - to come and bring whatever jewelry and silver they wanted to get rid of.

They brought gold or silver lone earrings, broken necklaces, candlesticks and other odd and unwearable pieces for Cashville's father and son owners, Josh and Jerry Levine, to evaluate and possibly buy.

The Levines, who sweetened the pot by offering to donate 15 percent of each sale (and more in some cases) to Siloam, met privately with each guest, checking out and weighing their stuff and offering a price, which they could take or leave.

"The guests were really surprised at how much they got from stuff that they did not think was worth anything,'' hostess Heather said. "And, some were surprised to find out stuff that they thought was valuable, was indeed not. One found out some old wire that she thought was silver ended up being platinum. This whole thing has an antiques road show component to it."

A good example of a transaction was one guest who sold $1,000 worth of gold/silver/ platinum and donated $250 of that to Siloam, and then with Cashville donating $150, Siloam received $400 from the one transaction.

"It's like a Tupperware party, but different,'' Lisa told me after the successful event, which translated into $1,500 for Siloam. "Everybody wins. The guests get money for their pieces, Cashville gets a lot of metal in one location, and Siloam benefits.''

Plus, she says, "it spreads awareness of Siloam. I see it as a 'friendraiser' " she said. "These days we have to be creative, and I love the recycling aspect of it.''

Julie agreed that it was a great arrangement on every level. And she said she liked the Tupperware reference that Lisa made. "But unlike Tupperware parties, friends don't leave poorer - they may leave a lot better off.'' Cashville, which is located at 2528 Franklin Road in Berry Hill, just down the street from Siloam, is doing two to three parties a week, some of them fundraisers and some just get-togethers.

The Levines say the mix of what people bring to the parties and to their office is everything from jewelry from old boyfriends to jewelry they "overbought'' on the home shopping network to coins and flatware and inherited formal pieces that people just don't want, and yes, even dental gold.

Gotta go now - and go through my jewelry box to see what I can find that I might cash in!

Stay cheap!

Reach Ms. Cheap at 259-8282 or

December, 13, 2008 The Tennessean