Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region programming that supports financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship in area school systems is taking another hop forward.
And once again, it’s all thanks to a kangaroo ... er, sort of.
Bouncing off the success of last year’s inaugural “Kash for Kids” campaign, some 108 Kangaroo Express convenience stores in the Cleveland, Chattanooga, Nashville, Huntsville, Ala., and North Georgia areas have jumped aboard the fundraising wagon for a second campaign.
It’s not just the stores doing the work. Customers are directly involved as evidenced by the number of rattling coins — in pocket fundraising it’s called “loose change” — hitting the bottom of “Kash for Kids” receptacles stationed on the front counters near the cash registers of each store.
This year’s Kangaroo campaign for JA launched Nov. 1 and will continue through Dec. 31. During the two-month drive, stores — and their customers — will be competing against one another to determine who can raise the most for the highly respected nonprofit.
Last year’s winning site, among those in the Cleveland and Chattanooga areas, was the green-trimmed Kangaroo Express at the corner of Highway 64 (Waterlevel Highway) and Durkee Road. The store accounted for some $8,000 in donations — all of which went directly to JA of the Ocoee Region.
Store manager is Jennifer Stepp, both then and now.
Last year’s first “Kash for Kids” campaign, which included all the Kangaroo sites in the Cleveland area, netted $39,240 for JA of the Ocoee Region. Regionwide, the drive raised $129,389, and $90,149 of the amount went to Junior Achievement of Chattanooga.
JA, which supplements the work of classroom teachers to help prepare students for the real world, focuses on chapters in academia that don’t always get the same level of attention in school system curricula as reading, writing and arithmetic.
“With the steadfast support of Kangaroo Express, Junior Achievement offices throughout the region will be able to provide our kindergarten through 12th grade students with the opportunity to prepare for their future,” said Tracie McCartney, JA of the Ocoee Region president.
She 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 ongoing partnership.”
In the Ocoee Region office, JA serves public school systems in five counties: Bradley, McMinn, Polk, Monroe and Meigs. This includes the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems.
The Kangaroo Express campaign isn’t just about helping the local JA operation. It is supporting JA offices in Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee and North Alabama as well. However, donations received in a region stay within that region. In other words, funds raised in the stores located within the Cleveland area will go to JA of the Ocoee Region.
“As a community store, Kangaroo Express is dedicated to supporting its local communities through truly dedicated organizations like Junior Achievement,” said Chris Hughes, regional district manager, Kangaroo Express. “The funds raised through Kash for Kids will continue to provide kids right here in the Cleveland, Chattanooga, Nashville, Huntsville and North Georgia areas the opportunity to benefit from real-life, hands-on experiences and inspire them to dream big and reach their fullest potential.”
Last year, McCartney was elated to be invited to the Kangaroo Express distribution day in Chattanooga that landed the Ocoee Region office a check for almost $40,000.
In the words of the local JA president, “That amount of money funds a lot of program materials that our volunteers need for classroom instruction. Everyone knows, who understands the JA mission, that our classroom instructors are unpaid volunteers so funds raised are going straight into program materials.”
Many of the Ocoee Region’s volunteers are members of the board of directors who represent their companies in the nonprofit’s work.
When she accepted the Kangaroo Express check last year, McCartney was quick to give credit to those who did the fundraising work — the stores, their managers and employees, and perhaps most importantly, their customers.
“They put their force behind JA of the Ocoee Region because they wanted to help our community,” McCartney told the Cleveland Daily Banner then at the close of the fundraising campaign. “It’s their children and grandchildren who are going to local schools where we implement our programs.”
She added, “We are so honored to have Kangaroo Express partner with us. [Their store locations] in Bradley, Polk, Meigs, McMinn and Monroe counties really opened up their hearts. Just as importantly, we are proud to say all of the money raised stays local.”
McCartney said she has every reason to believe Kangaroo Express customers will again rise to the occasion in support of Junior Achievement.
JA of the Ocoee Region is a well-established, Cleveland-based nonprofit that has operated here since 1965. It was founded by Skeet Rymer, president of the former Magic Chef Company which in 1986 merged with the Maytag Company to form the renamed Maytag Corporation. Maytag was later acquired by the Whirlpool Corporation in March 2006.
Kangaroo Express is operated by The Pantry Inc. As of Aug. 6, 2013, The Pantry operated 1,559 stores in 13 states under selected banners, including its primary operating banner, Kangaroo Express.
Junior Achievement 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.
Today, JA reaches 4.2 million students per year in more than 120 markets across the United States, with an additional 6.5 million students served by operations in 117 other countries worldwide.