Go Local continues to raise funds for education

ROBOTICS: Montford North Star Academy teacher Thomas House and 6th grade student Damon Simerly work together on the latest design for the Robotics Club. The school's Robotics team is supported in part by Go Local. Photo by Cindy Kunst

When Montford North Star Academy first opened during the 2017-18 school year, its PTO had no money. “Not one dollar,” says the organization’s co-president Amy Jones. Naturally, this posed a problem. “As the PTO, you wrangle parents to volunteer and you provide material for the staff,” Jones explains. “But the important part of what you do — the really impactful part — is that you have money for teachers, for staff and for students.”

To combat the group’s financial woes, Jones launched a write-in campaign. But money was slow to come in. Until, that is, funding from the Go Local Card arrived. “That first check we got was for $1,500,” says Jones. Soon thereafter another check appeared for $600. The combined amount accounted for one-fifth of the PTO’s overall budget that year.

Similar stories are told by fellow PTO members and staff throughout the nine Asheville City Schools connected to the Go Local Card campaign. For every card purchased, half of the $18 price goes directly to these educational institutions. In 2018, this amounted to $26,000.

In addition to financial support, the Go Local campaign also creates connections between the city’s current business community and its potential future business leaders, today’s students. A number of local businesses, such as the Fine Arts Theatre, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Blue Dream Curry House and French Broad Chocolates sell Go Local cards on-site, raising funds for a specific school. In the process, some of these businesses develop unique relationships with the students they support.

For example, In Real Life, an after-school program for all Asheville City Schools, is sponsored by Hopey and Co. of French Broad Avenue. Brian Randall, IRL’s co-director, says what began as a sponsorship has quickly developed into a true partnership. Chefs from Hopey have led courses in the after-school program’s cooking classes, and the grocery store has since become IRL’s go-to space for hosting events.

“When our IRL kids see the IRL logo at a local business, it creates a sense of pride and connection between the child and the business,” Randall explains. And it stresses the local interdependence: “Visual reminders that our community supports itself is an important lesson for our future business leaders and consumers,” he says.

Franzi Charen, who launched the Go Local Card campaign in 2012, says this is a critical component of the overall mission. “We want to connect our youth to the importance of locally owned independent businesses,” she says.

Along with fostering local pride, the Go Local Card also helps Asheville students explore regions beyond the mountains of Western North Carolina. “One of the most important things that we did last year was send all our fifth grade students on the class trip to Charleston,” says Vance Elementary PTO member Rachel Figura. Money raised from the Go Local Card campaign helped create scholarships for students with financial needs, she explains. “Many of them had never been to the beach before,” Figura notes. “It was their first time on the sand.”

Whether it is special programs, scholarships, field trips or renovations, the Go Local Card assists Asheville City Schools in a number of different ways, says Jones. But these contributions, she feels, are often overlooked.

That certainly was the case for Jones before her involvement with the Montford North Star Academy.  Back then, she measured the card’s value based on the local deals it offered. Today her outlook is quite different. “The discounts are the lesser part of the story, now that I know how much the card impacts the schools represented,” she says.

Of course, the local deals that come with the card do make for a nice bonus. “It’s the icing on the cake if you’re someone who believes in giving,” Jones says.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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