Bill Smith

Bill Smith, owner of Furniture Outlet in Anniston, has been raising money and gift cards with local businesses to give to honor roll students at Anniston High School. 

Local businesses are putting their money into a program to encourage good grades at Anniston High School, a business owner said Wednesday. 

Bill Smith, owner of the Furniture Outlet on Noble Street, said he’d rallied support from 29 businesses, individuals and organizations in and near Anniston to contribute money, gift cards, meals and shopping sprees to Anniston High students who make honor roll. He was able to distribute $50 (or an equivalent in cash and meals) to 15 students last week, drawn at random from the pool of honor rollers, a body of about 40 students, he said. 

His grassroots fundraising campaign has raised about $4,000 to be doled out at the end of each nine-week period until the school year ends. The first part of that went out last week after report cards were released. 

“It’s just a little something we could do to encourage these kids,” Smith said Wednesday morning at his store. 

Smith said he took initiative at least in part due to the deannexation movement in Anniston. A leader of Forward 4 All, an Anniston nonprofit that proposed chopping out much of the city’s east side and redrawing it into Oxford, said in July that underperforming schools were among the reasons for the formation of the group. 

Smith conceded that the school system could use a boost, but also saw an opportunity to help make it better. 

“What I’m hoping is that it will encourage some of these kids that are on the borderline to go to their teacher or counselor and say, ‘What do I need to do to get in on this?’” he said. 

Contributions are about $200 per school year, Smith said. Anyone interested in contributing to the program can call Smith at 256-239-6823 or call his store at 256-236-7272 to make arrangements. 

Smith said he wanted to bolster students and help them realize that even though they might be caught in an argument over deannexation, Anniston residents believe in them. 

“We’re just trying to get the word out,” Smith said, “and let them know the community is behind them.”

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.