Adopt-A-School program resumes for public schools
by Laura Camper
Oct 18, 2012 | 4225 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Victoria Inn general manager Dana Murphree and employee Janice Martin pose for a photo with students at Tenth Street Elementary School in Anniston. The Victoria adopted the school as part of a Chamber of Commerce program. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Victoria Inn general manager Dana Murphree and employee Janice Martin pose for a photo with students at Tenth Street Elementary School in Anniston. The Victoria adopted the school as part of a Chamber of Commerce program. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Janice Martin, an alumna of Tenth Street Elementary School, told third-graders there Wednesday that she expects them to grow up and become business owners in Anniston.

Her son, Alan Martin, also an alumnus of the school, is now the owner and chef of the Victoria Restaurant, a career she had never imagined for him, she told them.

“It’s not beyond your possibilities to do anything,” Martin said. “I did not know he liked cooking. I just thought he liked my chocolate chip cookies.”

The Victoria Inn and Restaurant recently joined the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce’s Adopt–a-School program and adopted Tenth Street Elementary as its mission.

Dana Murphree, general manager of the inn, which is owned by the Jacksonville State University Foundation, said she wanted to become involved in the program because she knows how great an impact community involvement can have on a school.

“I know what it means to my grandkids when people come and help there,” Murphree said.

Murphree and Martin are still working out all the details with the school, but the business intends to provide classroom volunteers, cooking classes and rewards of visits to the Victoria for teachers and students, she said.

Kennedy Lewis, a third-grade teacher at Tenth Street, is excited about the partnership.

“I’m looking for the Victoria to give us some insight on some out-of-the-school-curriculum,” Lewis said. “You know, a different side of management, units of measure, cooperation and working together.”

The chamber began the school assistance program in the 1980s; but it had been inactive for a number of years when Haley Gregg, program development coordinator, joined the chamber in August 2011. Gregg decided to take the already established program off the shelf this summer and started recruiting businesses to adopt schools.

“Adopt-a-School really is to connect our businesses back to our schools,” Gregg said. “The goal is to get every school in Calhoun County an adopter.”

The program still has a ways to go. Of 33 public schools, 13 are still waiting for adopters.

The businesses are asked to sign a contract for the entire school year. Adopters can choose a particular school or offer to sponsor any school in need.

There are two ways a business can become involved in the program. They can support a school by providing volunteers to work at the school or by providing financial support or materials to the school. It can also agree to be a project partner and work with specific projects at the school.

The program is tailored to what the business wants to do, Gregg said.

Jim Miller, general manager of the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, said the board had adopted Wellborn and Cobb elementary schools through the program about 15 years ago. The board wanted to split its efforts between the two schools because it matched the water works’ customer base, which is about 50 percent county residents and 50 percent city residents, Miller said.

The board has continued the relationship with the schools even while the program was inactive, he added. When Gregg reactivated the program, the board just slid back in, Miller said.

The board has provided volunteer hours and financial support to both the schools over the years, he said.

“It’s almost like a mentoring relationship,” Miller said. “I’ve gone out several times to Wellborn and just read.”

Staff members also go out on a regular basis to work in classrooms reading to students or to tutor, whichever teachers need at the time. The board also has done fundraising for special projects. As a public entity, the board isn’t able to donate money as easily as a private company, Miller said. But it does have business contacts in town that can donate to projects when they know there is a need. So, for instance, when Cobb Elementary was having a difficult time affording a copy machine, the board approached business contacts and raised the money to pay for it, Miller said.

A business also can become a specialty partner in the program, Gregg said.

Those businesses may offer educational programs to any school that requests them. Alabama Power, one of the specialty partners in the program, offers an electrical safety class to all fourth-grade students.

A specialty partner may also offer support for a special project at a school.

Phil Webb, owner of Webb Concrete and Building Materials said he wanted to help strengthen education in the county. Webb, a Cleburne County native, has worked with Cleburne County Schools in the past providing materials and labor for a locker room at the high school, he said. He chose to work on a special project with White Plains High School because it is near his home in Choccolocco and the community has been good to his business.

“I felt like the best way for my company to contribute was to provide material or labor,” Webb said. “I met with the principal of the high school and said, ‘We’re here to help. What do you need?”

The principal had a few things on his wish list, computers for the school, some landscaping improvements and a new weight room. Webb was happy to oblige.

“Funding is always an issue,” Webb said. “But, it’s all about the students and education is so important.”

Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star. Article corrected to reflect that Haley Gregg, the chamber's program development coordinator, joined the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce in August 2011.
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