January 28 was not a typical Tuesday for school administrators in Bryan County. It’s not every Tuesday when someone walks through the front door to surprise the principal with a $1,000 check.
That’s just what happened at six schools in Richmond Hill last week as part of the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation’s new initiative to help support local students. Over the course of two days, Coastal Electric Cooperative employees delivered $23,000 to 23 schools in Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties to be donated to their “principal’s funds,” with the intention the monies would be used to meet students’ needs throughout the school year to which only staff working closely with the students may be privy.
“The directors of the Coastal Electric Foundation recognized an opportunity to further support the children of our community,” said Coastal Electric CEO Chris Fettes. “In addition to Bright Ideas grants and scholarship opportunities the Foundation already funds, they made these new donations to support the principals of our schools as they assist students and teachers that may have unique circumstances of need.”
Principals expressed a range of ideas as unique as the schools themselves for what the money will be used. Being able to discreetly help certain students with basic needs for clothing, shoes and backpacks were a given.
Carver Elementary School Principal Karen Smith said principal’s funds especially come in handy when supporting families who suffer loss from crises like house fires.
“We have all types of families and needs in our community that we take care of under the radar,” said Dr. William McGrath, Richmond Hill Middle School principal. “It’s part of our job.”
Richmond Hill Elementary Principal Walt Barnes mentioned helping students get eyeglasses who couldn’t afford them.
Richmond Hill High School Assistant Principal Mickey Bayens said in the past, one good use for the principal’s fund has been helping families pay off overdue lunch debt.
And principals’ ideas stretched far beyond – providing supplies so teachers wouldn’t have to pay so much out of pocket; extending science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) opportunities for students; and offering creative incentives for perfect attendance, good grades and positive behavior were just a few.
“Our staff members have so many great ideas to get kids plugged in and involved,” said Bivins Miller, McAllister Elementary principal. “Sometimes the ideas are there, and the necessary funding is not. We’ll assess our needs, vet those opportunities and make sure that whatever we decide to put this toward will be impactful schoolwide and community-wide.”
The Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation assists with the food, health, safety, education and shelter needs of citizens in counties served by Coastal Electric Cooperative. The Foundation’s main funding is from Operation Round Up, a volunteer program through which members allow their electric bills to be rounded up to the next whole dollar and invested back into the community. Since its creation in 1993, the Foundation has awarded grants in excess of $1.8 million to numerous charities, organizations and individuals.