Local businesses have key role in Partnership in Education (ePIE) program.
Jose Rodriguez, manager of Nick and Moe’s Shell gas station in Lakewood Ranch, saw it as an opportunity to pump funds into neighborhood schools.
So on Aug. 20, Nick and Moe’s began dedicating four of its gas pumps to local schools, two to R. Dan Nolan Middle School and two to Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary. The schools’ emblems adorn its pumps.
“We have customers asking about which pumps they need to go to for the fundraiser,” Rodriguez said. “Those pumps are definitely being used more than others. If you drive in and all the pumps are open, people will immediately use those pumps.”
Through the end of December, 3 cents for every gallon purchased at those four pumps will go to education. At the end of the fundraiser, Rodriguez will present checks to the schools. The first month of the program raised approximately $500, but Rodriguez said he hasn’t checked since.
“We want to be involved in our community,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the bottom line.”
It is just one example of how local businesses can help schools by raising money.
“It is a huge piece of our school community,” said Carol Ricks, the assistant principal at McNeal Elementary. “A lot of projects are possible that would not be otherwise. As far as money for our school, we’re limited with district funding.”
Ricks said McNeal will use the funds to purchase items such as laptops, tablets, interactive whiteboards and to pay for field trips. Without local businesses taking an active role, many of those would not be possible.
Morrish Stewart Orthodontics raised money it donated to McNeal and Ricks said those funds helped to purchase shirts for the students that had the school’s mantra — “I will be respectful, I will be responsible, I will be WILD (McNeal’s mascot is the Wildcat) about learning” — on the back.
Ricks said those kinds of donations are important. “It ties into our schoolwide positive behavior program,” she said.
Kona Ice Sarasota sells its product at classroom parties, PTO events and fall and spring festivals at McNeal. A percentage of the proceeds are donated back to the school to purchase supplies.
“This seems to be very profitable for us and for the school,” said Elizabeth Boyers, owner of Kona Ice Sarasota. “We love the community base of it. The kids know us and we get to know them, and the parents know us, too.
“It is the future of our community, the future of our kids, and we just feel that if you can’t be a business owner and help out with the community, then why be in business? This is our true mission.”
Sometimes the donation doesn’t come in dollars.
“Harvest United Methodist Church provides some of their members to come tutor and mentor our students,” Ricks said. “They have a Big Brothers, Big Sisters kind of thing going on.”
Through the School District of Manatee County’s “e-PIE” (electronically monitored Partners in Education) program, businesses can get involved.
Businesses can send a school administrator a request, which will be reviewed. A partnership, if approved, would then be formed.
Mary Glass, president of the Manatee Education Foundation, said the schools can’t succeed on their own.
“The schools really depend on that extra money,” Glass said. “The community sometimes doesn’t know how they can get involved, and they might like to.”
“The need is different at every school,” said Eileen Perez, owner of Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids.
Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids has partnered with 16 Manatee County schools this year. Perez calls each school and asks what they need.
“[B.D.] Gullett Elementary School needed two bicycles for a silent auction last September,” Perez said. “So, I bought a boys bike and a girls bike and delivered it to them.”
Perez said her desire to help local schools comes more from her heart than it does from a business standpoint.
“A lot of it is my own passion,” Perez said. “I actually care, so it is more for me than for my business.”
Perez planted flowers at Manatee Elementary School, an act that brought her great joy.
“I was smiling the whole time,” Perez said. “Now the principal will have a nice view out of her office window.”