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June 2, 2014

Local biz: Get your piece of the PIE, support Tift students

TIFTON — Local businesses can lend a hand to Tift County students by participating in the school system's revamped Adopt-A-School program, which is now called PIE – "Partners in Education."

Stacey Beckham, Tift County Schools’ director of communications, said the Adopt-A-School program has been in place for years. However, it has dwindled and became inactive as a whole. She said they needed a more formal structure in place, so organizers did some research on programs in  and outside the state.

"A lot of schools do monetary donations, but we didn't want to limit businesses," Beckham said, noting businesses can also volunteer their time, among other things. "We put a dollar amount on the volunteer hours."

There are many levels of support, beginning at only $250, for partners to choose from. The levels of support are based on any combination of monetary donations, in-kind donations and volunteer time. Partners receive many benefits for their support, ranging from community recognition to free passes to school events and free facility use. Partners are also allowed to request students choral and band groups to perform at partner functions.

According to Beckham, beyond monetary donations, there are many ways to support Tift County Schools. Just a few examples of partner organization activities include:

- Visiting classrooms and conducting class lectures related to your area of expertise

- Providing reward gifts to Students of the Month

- Providing educational materials specific to your business (ex: plants to agriculture classes if you are a nursery, building materials from a hardware store, medical supplies to a science class for dissection, etc.)

- Providing a Teacher Appreciation Lunch

- Displaying students' work in your business

- Reading to primary school students

- Volunteering at special events at a school

- Participating in a career day

- Sponsoring a student recognition program

"It opens it up to every business," Beckham said about the program. She noted some local businesses have had a long relationship with the Adopt-A-School program, including South Georgia Banking Company and Zaxby's. She said Publix has also been a great partner since they've been in Tifton.

"We really want to recognize those businesses," Beckham said. The program now allows them to promote businesses as well, which she says is a big benefit.

The program is a partnership with the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce. The mission of the program is to create and strengthen relationships between Tift County Schools and area organizations in an effort to enhance educational opportunities for all local Tift students, says Beckham. Each partnership is unique and individually planned by the school system and organization to meet the needs of both groups. Students and staff benefit from this partnership through expert, real-world knowledge, donations and visible community support.

Businesses and organizations benefit from the partnership by creating relationships with current/potential customers and employees, creating positive public perception of the organization and earning tax deductions.

Beckham said once a business agrees to become a PIE participant, a plan is discussed by the school and organization, and then the goals and level of support are set. The partnership agreement is reviewed each year to make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial.

Beckham said the revamped program will be good for students, teachers and businesses. Those businesses that are interested in being a participant in the program can pick a local school, the school system can pick a school for them or they can partner with the school system, which will distribute the monetary donations as needed to local schools.

Those interested in becoming a partner or continuing as a partner can contact Beckham at stacey.beckham@tiftschools.com.

The program has already started up in preparation for the 2014-15 school year. Any business can contact Beckham this summer. She noted they also welcome partners through the school year.

PIE contribution levels are outlined below:

(Sponsorship totals are based on direct monetary donations, value of in-kind donations and volunteer hours at a rate of $25 per hour).

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