Fundraiser: 1950’s Drive-In

Turn your church parking lot into a drive-in scene from the 1950’s and make money while you have fun!
Post on the building a large menu offering hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, coffee, soda and ice cream.
Bubble-gum-chewing, roller-skating carhops take orders and skate trays of food to customers. Prepare all food on gas grills at a large work area facing the cars. Everyone dresses in the 1950’s theme: leather jackets, bobby socks and greased hair. The customers enjoy watching the members work and laugh together. Free pieces of bubble gum come with each order.
Open the drive-in from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday. Expenses include hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, cooking oil, coffee, soda, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, bubble gum, napkins, order pads, pens, ice cream and plastic utensils.
Fast-food restaurants may donate several of these items, and some stores may offer church discounts. For example, ask your local baker if your cooking crew can borrow some aprons. Ask a lumber dealer to give nail aprons for the carhops to keep change. Borrow gas grills from church members.
Publicize the drive-in with posters, fliers, and press releases. You’ll earn a good profit, have a lot of fun and relive the nostalgic days of the 1950’s era drive-ins.
Step-by-Step Planning for Your 1950’s Drive-In
Two Months Before the Event:
Explain the event to the pastor and select an open date on the church calendar. A weekend night is probably best. Sunday nights are often good since you have a last chance at publicity on Sunday morning, and people are less likely to forget if they are reminded the day of the event. Make sure this is a free night on the calendar because you will use the whole parking lot.
One Month Before the Event:
Have your young people make posters reflecting the ’50’s theme for the night. Include items from the menu, hours, and location of the activity. Highlight the unique experience of being served hamburgers and other drive-in items by bubble-gum-chewing, roller-skating carhops. Since this event could appeal to people outside your church, make enough signs to post in local businesses and at church.
The unusual nature of this back-to-the-’50’s activity could attract the news media. Make sure you alert radio, TV, and newspaper reporters to this fun evening sponsored by the young people of your church. Put the information on the community calendars provided by the different media.
Solicit the aid of carhops who know how to roller-skate. Other young people and adults can serve as cooks and preparers. Together they can provide quality control for this fast-food operation.
Publicize the event in your church newsletter. Include a coupon for a free root beer with any order of fries and a hamburger.
Contact local merchants about donating food and paper items for the event.
Two Days Before the Event:
 Organize a shopping crew with complete grocery lists, including accurate amounts for the expected crowd. Don’t forget to purchase paper products and small packets of ketchup, salt, etc. Buy an excess of items. Running short will leave people with a negative feeling about the drive-in. Most leftover food could easily be purchased by families of youth group members and non-perishable items can be returned. (Save all sales receipts.)
Place lawn signs on the church lawn as public reminders. Make signs that give directions to the parking lot most accessible to your kitchen. Prepare directional signs for the parking lot.
Check the church kitchen for adequate utensils. Borrow or purchase other items you will need.
Prepare order pads with the items you’ve included on your menu. Make sure you include prices and room for a total.
Go to the bank to get rolls of change for carhops to use.
Day of the Event:
 Ask the setup crew to arrive two hours before serving is to begin. Arrange the kitchen for food preparation. Set up the stereo and gas grills outside on the church lawn. Put up direction signs in the parking lot. Complete all food preparation that can be done in advance.
Ask other crews–carhops, cooks and quality control people–to arrive one hour before the event. Give final instructions and make sure everyone knows his or her assigned task. Make sure carhops have adequate time to get into costume.
One-half hour before you “open,” start the grills. Plan to have your first hamburgers coming off the grill as your first customers arrive. They will be impressed.
After the Event:
 Make sure church facilities–kitchen, lawn and parking lot–look better than when you arrived. Take down posters and signs from around the church.
Do an accurate accounting of who assisted and credit the accounts of those young people who helped raise funds.
Write thank you notes to all the adult helpers and the people who made donations. Include a note of thanks in the church bulletin to all those who supported the young people by attending the 1950’s Drive-In.
This fundraiser is an excerpt from the Fundraising with Teens booklet.

Published March 28, 2012

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