Steamboat Springs When music teacher Kathy South pulls out instruments for her students at Soda Creek Elementary School, she can thank local grocery shoppers.
When students at Steamboat high school travel to speech tournaments, they also can thank grocery shoppers for the free ride.
After eight years, a grocery certificate program has brought in about $75,000 for the four Steamboat public schools, but local residents can do better, some parents said.
"The grocery certificate program could be a lot more profitable if people were more aware that it doesn't cost any money, and the school will receive 5 percent of Safeway's profit," said Tracey Epley, a member of the Steamboat Middle School's Principal's Information Committee. The PIC helps raise funds for educational activities and goods that aren't funded in the school's budget.
In the case of Safeway shoppers, Epley said people can go to any of the local schools and purchase grocery certificates. The certificates are used like money at Safeway, but 5 percent of the grocery sales will go toward any school the purchaser designates.
For example, the middle school recently received a $2,408.23 check from the Safeway program.
City Market grocery store has a similar program using its red value card.
"If you want to do City Market, just bring your value card to any school and register it with us," said Ginny Fry, the attendant secretary at the middle school. Every time you shop at City Market, a percentage of the sales goes to your designated school. City Market then sends a quarterly check to those schools or organizations who participate.
Char Rusk, a parent at Soda Creek Elementary, said the school has used the grocery money to help pay for special assemblies with songwriters and authors that the students couldn't otherwise see or hear.
"It provides educational opportunities that kids wouldn't be able to have," Rusk said, including a skeleton that students study at Soda Creek.
Each of the PIC committees ask the teachers for a wish list each year.
Kathy South wished for some expensive xylophones that were beyond her music budget and PIC pulled through.
"The PIC really helped out buying the nice ones that never go out of tune," South said after a musical session with her eager second-graders.
"I'm really grateful we have parents so generous and understanding of our needs."
It was parents like Sherry Kammerer who helped get the schools involved with the grocery certificate program.
"It's a win-win situation," Kammerer said. "Everybody buys groceries, so they should either buy certificates from Safeway or register their City Market card to support a school."
Grocery certificates can also be bought at Christy Sports in Central Plaza and Community First Bank.
"Look at what we can do for our schools in a way that's very, very painless," Epley said.