SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Buying a week’s worth of groceries, the bill came in at $68.57 for a customer at Freshway Market in Social Circle.
Then came the new refrain for each transaction at the local grocery store.
“Would you like to round that up for our local schools?”
Should the customer say yes, that bill would be rounded up to $69, and the additional 43 cents would be donated to Social Circle City Schools.
It’s all part of the new partnership between the city school system and the grocery store, dubbed “Change for Schools.”
Store manager Mike Martin said the idea was one that appealed to him when he encountered it in a different form outside of Walton County.
“I was at a restaurant one time and they asked if we would like to round up for the fire department,” Martin said. “I thought it’d be good to do that here for the school system.”
So Martin began to do some research into what it would take to make the program a reality, including how to get his technology to handle the additional transaction and keep track of the additional funds raised for an outside party.
Then he spoke with the school system and proposed his idea.
Sara Lynn Holbert, assistant superintendent for Social Circle City Schools, said they saw the benefits at once.
“He wanted to take the burden off parents and let the community help the schools,” Holbert said.
One thing Martin insisted on was the funds be used for student activities and projects, not just slotted into the system’s general fund.
“I told them I’m not interested in paying your gas bill or buying you new computers,” Martin said. “I know, when my kids were in school, it was extremely expensive to let your kids participate in activities after school.
“I wanted to give more kids the opportunity to participate in such events.”
Freshway kicked off the program officially April 1, after selectively allowing some people to participate in the days before to test out the software and work out any kinks in the system.
So far, Martin said, they’ve had no problems and the results have been more than he expected so early in the program’s run.
“Thus far, we’ve raised $2,500,” Martin said. “That’s extremely good. I am overwhelmed with the response.”
Every cent of that amount goes to the schools, and Martin said he and the system hope to direct those funds to specific programs and clubs in the future.
“I think it has great potential to help more kids,” Martin said.
Holbert agreed, saying they imagine dedicating funds for a given month to certain groups, from small sports to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes to art programs and other clubs.
“One month might be HOSA and another might be PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports),” Holbert said.
Martin also envisions using the upcoming summer months to help raise funds for a frequently stated need at the beginning of each school year — classroom supplies.
“I hate to see teachers having to come in here and spend their own money to stock up on tissues or markers,” Martin said. “This money is to go to the teachers to help them invest in their classrooms without breaking out their wallets.”
Of course, the Change for Schools program has just started and the first month of collection has not even concluded yet.
Martin hopes to see the monthly take increase to $3,000 or more, all of it earmarked right for the four schools in Social Circle.
“All 100 percent of the money we collect goes to the school system,” Martin said.
And Martin’s hopes for the program seem to be bearing fruit so far.
“Most of our customers are choosing to round up,” Martin said.
There are future plans to increase participation and get the word out about the program.
For now, though, Martin is just happy to see the program doing as well as it has in its first month.
“I’m looking out for the kids,” Martin said.