Katherine Bolton has a knack for asking and getting results

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
— Behind every successful fundraiser is someone who, well, raises the money.

Katherine Bolton is one of those behind-the-scenes people. She doesn't want to be the person in charge, but any person in charge wants a person such as her on the team.

Bolton has raised "ridiculous" amounts of money over the years for school children, said Janesville teacher Camilla Owen, who is Bolton's sister.

Bolton's special talent: convincing people to donate to the cause.

"That's her personality," Owen said. "I don't have that ‘sales' thing."

Besides having that "sales" thing, Bolton is compassionate, hard working and energetic, Owen said.

Bolton first started volunteering with Rotary Gardens' Harvest Fest.

Later, she became involved with Owen's pet projects—fundraising for Franklin Middle School's low-income students and for minority scholarships.

Kim Ehrhardt, now director of instruction and former Franklin principal, said Bolton was the "spark plug" who propelled the school's holiday parties to bigger and better things.

At the party, disadvantaged children choose clothes and gifts for themselves and family members.

Bolton "quadrupled" the offerings within several years, Ehrhardt said. Soon, the event was serving more than 100 families, had outgrown the stage and spilled into the gymnasium.

"This became a year-round project for Katherine," Ehrhardt said. "She was always scouting out the best deals, and anyone who knew her also became involved. The results exceeded expectations."

Bolton made good use of Boston Store's Community Day, which aides organizations raising money. Once, she earned a bonus for Franklin because she outsold all other organizations.

Said her sister: "She'd collect all this money, and, my gosh, we'd have $6,000, $7,000, $8,000 every year." Then, Bolton stalked sales.

"Our gymnasium was packed," Owen said. "Everything was brand new … bicycles, sleds, skateboards, iPods. She's the best wheeler-dealer. She just has that skill."

Bolton's payback? She cites a favorite story involving a young boy trying on a coat.

"I told him it was too big," Bolton said. "But he said, ‘It's OK. It's new. I've never had a new coat, and I can wear it for a couple of years.'"

Leftover items go to the Franklin Closet, a year-round resource for kids.

Bolton also worked for about five years on the Spring Fling at Monroe Elementary School, one year raising $5,000. Money went to the playground and classroom libraries, for example.

When Bolton first became involved there, she noticed that organizers bought everything, hoping the cost of the tickets covered expenses.

"My way of thinking is, if you're going to do something and make money, try to get everything donated. You make more money."

She brought in donations that ranged from the slush machine to the sweets in the count-the-candy game. Giveaway items included televisions and camping tents.

Bolton's husband, Shaughn, has always been at her side, helping with the shopping and heavy lifting, she said.

Bolton, who has a sales background, also has a competitive streak that inspires her to make subsequent events bigger and better.

Bolton won't take the credit and rather defers it to people who donate.

"I'm very fortunate that I know people who are very generous," Bolton said.

Last updated: 7:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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