Evolution Benefits Inc. has developed a successful and growing fundraising program based on its prepaid card technology. Through the TeacherDollars program, the health care benefits card processor issues "special-purpose" prepaid debit cards to teachers in the Hartford, Conn., public school system.
Teachers use the MasterCard Worldwide-branded cards to purchase school supplies from merchants, such as bookstores and grocery and office supply stores, that participate in the Hartford school improvement plan. The supplies mainly focus on increasing the literacy and math skills of students.
According to Lynda Godkin, TeacherDollars Program Director for EB, TeacherDollars has distributed approximately 1,500 cards worth $320,000 since 2006, with $200 typically loaded on each card. For the 2010/2011 school year, EB has raised $139,500 toward its goal of $200,000. The money will be used to fund 880 cards to be distributed to deserving teachers in 22 schools.
To fund the cards, EB relies on donations from individuals and organizations, such as Newman's Own Foundation and the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation Inc. (Robert E. Patricelli is the founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EB.)
Godkin said the idea for TeacherDollars came from Patricelli, who grew up in Hartford. He had an "aha moment" when he realized EB's prepaid card technology could improve the education in Hartford's schools by supplying its teachers with a payment tool for purchasing items that are not budgeted by the schools, Godkin said.
For teachers who annually spend an average of $1,000 of their own money for additional classroom materials, EB's program helps ease that burden, she added.
Hartford is the second-poorest city in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Urban Environmental Program in New England. Its population is largely minority (African-American and Hispanic) with a median income of $11,081, according to 2007 statistics. Godkin said Hartford is considered a "mecca" for recent immigrants, many coming from the Caribbean islands of the West Indies.
With parents often working multiple jobs and any one of 22 different languages spoken by students, Hartford's teachers are confronted with daunting educational challenges, Godkin said.
With the TeacherDollars program, the message to Hartford teachers is "we trust you," she added. "You have probably the most difficult job in the society and raising our young people to be educated and part of a sophisticated workforce. So here's some extra money to help you do your job." To learn more about TeacherDollars, go to www.myteacherdollars.com.
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