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The brightly painted pink and camouflage-colored toilets that have been appearing on local lawns the last few weeks are not some new kind of lawn ornament. Nor are they the homeowner's idea of a fancy flower pot.

They are the product of an idea conceived by Joe Cannon and his men's group to raise money for ministries sponsored by Ridge Manor United Methodist Church.

"I call them 'potty planters,' " Cannon said about his decorative creations.

The idea is to stealthily place a toilet in someone's yard and then get them to pay to have the highly visible potty removed.

According to a note left with the toilet, the homeowner has three options: pay $10 to have the potty removed with a guarantee that it won't return; pay $15 to have it removed with no guarantee that it won't return, but then delivered to another yard of the recipient's choice; pay $20 for an insurance plan that will remove the potty with a guarantee that it won't return and have it delivered to another property.

Members of the church have been having fun with the project since it began on Sept. 13, said church pastor Deborah Nelson, the first recipient of a toilet.

"A few weeks ago, I was pulling out of my driveway for church when this large, hot pink item caught my eye at the end of my driveway," she said. "Much to my surprise, it was a toilet with bright, vibrant flowers springing from it. I was laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes."

After a moment's reflection as to what her neighbors might think, Nelson's next thought was to wonder where she could send it.

"I must admit, it was great fun to think about the many folks in our church with their beautifully manicured lawns and luscious landscaping - and then this pink potty on their lawn ... and thus ensued the fun of being 'tanked,' a most unusual fundraiser."

Soon, other church members and their friends and family members became the recipient of one of Cannon's creations.

Marie Locke received the "gift" from her pastor.

"Pastor Debbie had the hot pink toilet sent to me after her neighborhood had the pleasure of seeing it in her yard," Locke said. "I had been working in my front yard and went inside. Within 45 minutes, I noticed something pink on my lawn. There it was for the world to see."

When Locke's neighbors came home from work and saw the toilet, they thought the situation was quite funny. They began taking photographs of it.

"They were sending them to their friends. I also e-mailed pictures of it to my family and friends. One friend from Michigan sent a check to save us the shipping costs," Locke said with a laugh.

The check will be used for a good cause.

Cannon hopes to raise about $800 to be divided among three ministry projects.

"We're trying to build a prayer park next to the church," Cannon said about one of the projects. "We want to put little trails in there and sitting areas where people can go and just relax."

Another portion will be given to a church member to help with the cost of undergoing an organ transplant. The remainder will go to Habitat for Humanity.

"We were trying to figure out a way to raise funds and lower the cost for individuals to get a Habitat home, so I just started playing on the Internet and happened to find the idea for the fundraiser," Cannon said.

He hopes that those wanting to help Habitat will see what one man can do to raise money and find similar projects.

No intent to offend

When the potty project began, Cannon placed a sign with the toilet that said "Just Got Flushed by the Spirit of the Lord." A neighbor of one of the recipients objected to the wording, so Cannon changed the sign to say "Laughter is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22."

There was also one other person, who had been having personal problems, who didn't want the toilet on her lawn, he said. He removed it immediately and wants to be sure not to offend anyone with his fundraising idea.

Nelson is also concerned about people's feelings and said she wants to reassure people that the fundraiser is not meant to be a theological statement or a crude gesture.

"This is an effort by our men to bring a smile to people's faces, a chuckle to their daily routine, while providing a fun-loving way to raise funds for a good cause," she said. "It will indeed be money well spent. One of our members is in critical need of a kidney transplant, and we hope to add some funding to the $250,000 he needs to raise.

"As the pastor of this crazy crew, I say, God bless our men for their fun-loving, generous spirit in serving our God."

As of Thursday, Cannon had raised $650. He had planned to end the fundraiser Oct. 20. But with the project going so well, he has decided to paint one of the toilets to look like a pumpkin and have it at the church's fall festival to give people the chance to have the potty sent to a yard of their choice.

"If we get a lot of people that want to participate," he said, "I might let it run for a couple more weeks."

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Church fundraiser

To participate in Ridge Manor United Methodist Church's toilet fundraiser, call Joe Cannon at (352) 206-0791. To see the toilet's pumpkin decor, visit the church's fall festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at 34350 Cortez Blvd. in Ridge Manor.