Pantry, JA set for new project
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Nov 19, 2012 | 1348 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From Halloween monsters to an Elvis sighting on the Lee University campus and now a kangaroo bash, Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region is reaching out to the community in hopes of reaching in to more Cleveland and Bradley County school system students.

In the world of nonprofit service, organizations must find time to raise funds to keep their programming alive, according to Tracie McCartney, first-year president of the local JA affiliate whose volunteers bring supplemental training to classrooms in the form of work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.

The whole idea is “... to help young people learn the importance of staying in school and to develop the competitive skills and confidence needed to succeed in the 21st century global marketplace,” McCartney explained.

JA volunteers don’t overlap school system curriculum; instead, they weave in supplemental instruction whose relevance is becoming even more pronounced due to modern-day workplace needs and employer expectations, she said. Schools still teach the fundamentals in academics and JA instructors add a real-world twist.

But to make it happen means nonprofits like JA must also dedicate time to raise funds for their modest budgets.

Since late October, JA of the Ocoee Region has completed successful fundraisers like the Halloween Monster Ball at the Museum Center at Five Points and last week the organization hosted “Christmas with the King of Rock & Roll” on the Lee campus. Featuring the Nashville-based talents of Travis LeDoyt, known to most as the world’s best “Young Elvis,” the internationally traveled performer brought his authentic three-piece band to Cleveland for the third consecutive year. LeDoyt’s appearance was sponsored by Bowater Employee Credit Union.

Both the Monster Ball and the “Young Elvis” concert were considered successful, but a year’s worth of JA instructional materials are expensive. And that is leading JA into its third major late-year fundraiser.

Since Nov. 1, The Pantry Inc. — which is the leading independently operated convenience store chain in the Southeast — has partnered with JA affiliates in the Ocoee Region and in Chattanooga to bring its first “Kash for Kids” campaign to the area.

Locally, this means funds raised in the Ocoee Region’s communities will support local school systems.

According to an announcement by The Pantry, the campaign includes 72 Kangaroo Express convenience stores through Cleveland, Chattanooga and North Georgia.

“Kash For Kids” invites Kangaroo Express customers to donate to the JA affiliate that services children in their respective school systems. Donations raised in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Polk and Monroe counties will go directly to the Ocoee Region operation. Those raised in Hamilton, Catoosa (Ga.), Walker, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie counties will benefit the Chattanooga affiliate.

“Kangaroo Express is excited for the opportunity to partner with a truly dedicated organization like Junior Achievement through the Kash for Kids campaign,” said Chris Hughes, regional district manager for Kangaroo Express. “The funds raised will provide kids right here in the Cleveland, Chattanooga and North Georgia areas the opportunity to benefit from real life, hands-on experience and inspire them to dream big and to reach their fullest potential.”

McCartney described the Kangaroo Express campaign, which continues through Dec. 26, as a significant benefit to the Ocoee Region.

“This is a huge deal for us,” she told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “With the generous support of Kangaroo Express, Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region will continue to provide our kindergarten through 12th grade students the opportunity to prepare for their future.”

McCartney added, “We are elated for the impact to be experienced by a greater number of students in our local schools as a result of this partnership.”

JA instructors, all of whom are unpaid volunteers and many of whom serve on the affiliate’s board of directors, reach out to as many local classrooms as the budget will allow. Instructors are trained on how to present the pre-planned JA material. Most volunteers are active members of the business and corporate community. Some are retirees.

One example of JA programming came last week at Cleveland Middle School when Ocoee Region volunteers conducted Reality Check, an initiative that allows middle school students to experience for themselves a touch of the real world. In Reality Check, each student is assigned a career with an established income, and then is presented with a series of real-life choices involving the purchase of automobiles, insurance, homes, clothing, food and other expenses that will become part of their everyday lives as adults.

“The students went from booth to booth learning how much money they could make with a college degree all the way down to being a high school dropout,” McCartney explained. “They were given a job, a salary and a family life, and they were expected to balance their checkbooks accordingly.”

She added, “Many of the students were successful while others wanted to go on thousand-dollar vacations before paying their light bill. It was a great experience and wonderful to really see the children get the idea that they wouldn’t have enough money to go to the movies if they spent all of their paycheck on bills. It was a great day of budgeting and learning for all involved.”

Programs like Reality Check are supported through JA fundraisers like the Monster Ball and the “Young Elvis” concert, and now through “Kash for Kids.”

JA programming, and its relevance to kids’ future lives, is the importance of fundraising success, McCartney said. Without funds to pay for the instructional materials, JA can’t operate. In the long run, that’s a threat to the future, she added.

“It’s essential to our economy that these children enter the world with a solid financial background to better our society,” McCartney stressed. “Reality Check is one of the many programs that JA has to offer to change the world.”

Other JA programs go directly into the classroom to teach financial basics like balancing a checkbook and financing, but it also teaches work readiness and personal responsibility.

“Teachers and administrators in our school systems already do such a great job, so this allows JA programs to supplement their success and to help the children to excel,” McCartney stressed.

Of the Kangaroo Express “Kash for Kids” campaign, its sponsor — The Pantry Inc. — is headquartered in Cary, N.C. As of Aug. 6, the company operated 1,589 stores in 13 Southeastern states under select banners with the primary one being Kangaroo Express.

Nationally, JA reaches 4.2 million students per year in more than 120 markets across the U.S. An additional 6.5 million students are served by JA operations in 117 countries worldwide.

According to Junior Achievement USA, “JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.”

Questions about “Kash for Kids,” or its local impact on JA of the Ocoee Region, may be directed to McCartney at the local JA office at 423-476-6772. Emails may be sent to