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The Smell of Money

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Garlic is prized for the zest it lends to many dishes. Now, for the schools of Gilroy, Calif., it will also put money in the bank.

Gilroy, a quiet Northern California town, is the self-proclaimed garlic capital of the world, home to an annual garlic festival and the nation's largest grower of the pungent seasoning. Don and Diane Christopher, the owners of that enterprise, have been active in an annual fund-raiser for high-school students and day-care facilities, but saw a need for the kids "in between.''

So, they decided to take a well-known local restaurant they recently acquired, Garlic Aulx, and turn it into a nonprofit fund-raising center for Gilroy's 12 public and private schools.

The Christophers' recipe calls for one school to receive 100 percent of one month's profits from the restaurant.

To add more spice to the soup, the restaurant's customers decide which school will receive each month's profits. Each dining check lists the names of four elementary schools eligible for the next month's profits. Once a school is chosen, says Diane Christopher, it can urge parents, staff members, and community residents to have a night on the town and raise funds for the school at the same time.

Those profits, Ms. Christopher says, now average $2,000 to $6,000, but could reach as high as $16,000 if business booms.

"We discuss fund use with principals to make sure the donations are used for academics, not a new sprinkler system for the football field,'' Ms. Christopher says.

When Brownell Elementary school was chosen to receive the profits for July, its principal, Richard Imler, sent newsletters to the parents of all 730 students, urging them to dine out.

"It's a great investment in the community,'' says Mr. Imler, who plans to use the profits to enhance his school's library and computer resources.--S.K.G.

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