eScrip: High-tech donation system

Posted: Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Brenda Bowlin has renewed her eScrip card every year since her children have been in school, but when the agency sent her renewal letter she was shocked by what she found.

"This year I had noticed that the (Kenai Peninsula) Food Bank can receive from eScrip," she said. "I'm sure a lot of people don't have children in school, but they can sign up for eScrip and that money can go to the food bank instead of it not being used at all."

The program was introduced by Electric Scrip Incorporated, a California-based corporation, in 1999. Shoppers can register grocery store club cards, credit cards and gift cards, and the store will donate a portion of the sale to the school and organization of the person's choice. In the Kenai-Soldotna area, residents can use their Safeway Club Card to help their child's school. People also can shop online to benefit their child's school. A complete list of stores can be found at eScrip's Web site: www.escrip.com.

Bowlin, whose children attend Redoubt Elementary and Soldotna High, said she found out about the program through the parent-teacher association at Redoubt and signed up for it. Donations can be split up to as many as three schools and organizations. For example, she said folks can donate their money to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and to Soldotna Middle School. Bowlin also said that anyone getting Alaska Airlines miles through the Safeway Club Card can still sign up for the eScrip program and get their miles.

"There's two different programs," she said. "One doesn't cancel out the other one."

When the Redoubt Elementary PTA controlled how the eScrip donations were used, they would be given to teachers as minigrants to be used individually or collectively for things like field trips. The school's principal, John Pothast, said the school also has purchased books with the money and used it to purchase a new set of wall maps and Atlases for every classroom.

Pothast said the good thing about eScrip is if a student's grandparents live in Nevada they can use their Safeway Club Card there to benefit their grandkids on the Kenai Peninsula. They also can donate to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank from the Lower 48, he said.

"It's a great fundraiser for schools because it doesn't cost anyone anything," he said. "So it's a great opportunity for schools and other organizations to do some fundraising."

As eScrip coordinator for Soldotna High School, Carmen Stephl said the Soldotna Safeway has been wonderful about some of the items the school's PTSA have been able to obtain through the eScrip program.

"Funding is certainly an issue with schools and the items we've been able to purchase mostly for the schools and teachers at Soldotna High school have been made possible through the parents, students and teachers at Soldotna High School," she said.

Through the eScrip program Soldotna High purchased lighting and electronic equipment for school dances. The PTSA has been able to fund scholarships. The association also is able to send students to the Skills USA conference.

"We're trying to spread it out so it benefits everybody at Soldotna High School, the teachers and freshmen through seniors," Stephl said. "It's such an easy program. We're shopping at Safeway anyway. Once you sign up, once they scan their card a percentage of the purchases go to the school of their choice."

Linda Swarner, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, signed up for the eScrip program, but hasn't received any money yet. But once the food bank receives funding from eScrip, Swarner said it would be used to supplement the food it makes available to its 61 member agencies.

"We acquire food from the Food Bank of Alaska because we are an America Second Harvest organization," Swarner said. "We would first look to acquire that food at a much lower value than if we acquired it from local wholesalers, but we will be looking to acquire food from those organizations as well later on this year."

At this time canned protein goods are among the most sought after products at the food bank, Swarner said. Things like canned meat, beef stews, tuna fish and Spam, as well as high-protein peanut butter are foods that people ask for a lot. Canned fruits also are highly sought after because the price has increased substantially, she said.

"We would appreciate anyone who indicated that we were their recipient for the eScrip program," she said.

Pothast said anyone who was interested in signing up can visit the principal at their local school. Folks can also register via www.escrip.com.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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