Nine-year-old Elise Marx has turned a chance discovery into a money-making concern, and she's giving away the profits to fulfill a passion she has for animal rescue.
"It's a way of helping animals," she said recently at a kiosk she'd set up near one of the holes of the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, where she sells golf balls that were mis-struck and abandoned.
So far, she said in an interview, she's approaching $3,000 in sales since starting the venture about three years ago.
The Bright School soon-to-be fifth grader said she came up with the idea while staying with grandparents at the adjacent Heritage Landing residential development. They'd take walks along the golf course, and she'd see what's literally become hundreds of lost balls in grass and bushes, Marx said.
"I found my first ball and then kept finding more and more. I had so many I didn't know what I'd do," she said. "I said 'What if we raise money for charity and sell them.'"
Over time, she collected and cleaned the balls, and then sorted them by logo or nonlogo markings. Marx said she bagged the nonlogo balls, selling them to golfers playing through the course at $10 per bag of five. The logo balls, some of them with fairly usual markings, sell for $5 each, she said.
Marx, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, said she has given away the sales proceeds to McKamey Animal Center and Humane Educational Society in Chattanooga.
"I'm talking about donating to another one in Red Bank," said the daughter of Matthew and Lindsay Marx.
Lindsay Marx said in an interview that her daughter, who has a rescue dog she named Elvis, is "very driven and self-motivating."
Grandfather Mike Mallen, a Chattanooga attorney, said in an interview that Elise will stay up to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. working to get ready for a sales day.
"She gets on the computer and makes the signs" for the kiosk, he said, calling it "a one-stop shop." She then counts the money collected from the day's sale and contacts the animal shelters to schedule the donations, Mallen said.
Elise Marx said she plans to continue the enterprise.
"As long as I'm getting the money to donate, I'm really happy," she said.