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The big winners

Nonprofits benefit from tip jars

Nonprofits benefit from tip jars

March 05, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

It's being used to transport girls to swimming lessons and to help underprivileged boys become Boy Scouts.

It has paid for a study on building a new horse arena and has helped to stabilize an old church that served as a school for blacks after the Civil War.

It's credited with helping to keep a free medical clinic for the uninsured remain in business and is helping a museum pay for an exhibit on women's health.

Proceeds from tip jars in Washington County are being used this year for different purposes by nearly 100 different nonprofits, but officials with the nonprofit agencies agree on one thing.

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Their shared sentiment was voiced perhaps best by the director of an organization that helps girls.

"For us, it's extremely important and we're just so grateful for it," Maureen Grove, executive director of Girls Inc., said of annual county grants handed out that consist of tip jar proceeds.

Every year, thousands of "tips" - pieces of paper - are pulled apart in clubs, bars, fire departments and during special fundraising events. If certain numbers are printed on the small piece of paper, a cash prize is awarded to its holder.

The bigger winners are the 92 nonprofits that received grants from the Washington County Gaming Commission last year and that have been putting that money to use.

Last August, the Gaming Commission announced that more than $3 million would be distributed to area charities - a 6 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.

Of the more than $3 million, exactly half - $1,500,924 - was distributed to the county's Fire and Rescue Association and $1,500,924 was distributed to 92 local nonprofit or charitable organizations.

Since 1995, when the county began regulating tip jars, more than $28 million has been split between the Fire and Rescue Association and local nonprofit organizations.

An investigation by The Herald-Mail in the spring of 1995 showed that only a small percentage of tip jar revenue - an average of 5 percent, or $5 of every $100 of the gross proceeds - was being donated to charity. At the time, private clubs were responsible for forwarding profits to charities.

Stringent county regulations followed, requiring that for-profit organizations, such as bars, hand over half of the profits left over after winning ticket holders are paid.

Clubs and fraternal organizations must hand over 15 percent of their profits, while fire departments and other nonprofit organizations that obtain temporary licenses to sell tips are allowed to keep all of their profits.

Tip jars are so named because the paper "tips" often are placed in a large jar or bowl before being sold to people hoping for a little luck.

Girls and boys



One of the 92 organizations that received a grant last year was Mason-Dixon Boy Scouts, which was awarded $25,000.

Scout Executive Don Shepard said the allocation was used for three purposes.

A portion was used to replace windows and doors on the organization's circa-1960s building, helping to make it more energy efficient.

Second, money was used to help boys who might not be able to pay all expenses associated with being a Boy Scout, including sending them to Camp Sinoquipe.

Lastly, money was used for Learning for Life, a partnership between schools and the Boy Scouts, in which boys and girls learn about careers, do team-development exercises and take field trips. Adventure activities build confidence, Shepard said.

Last year in Washington County, 1,530 students participated in the Learning for Life program, while 1,439 are involved in traditional scouting programs, including Boys Scouts and Cub Scouts.

Although funding in the past has been used to build a parking lot for the organization's Crestwood Drive building and to repair the roof, most of it "goes to the kids," Shepard said.

"We've been able to expand upon the programs we provide with the kindness of the Gaming Commission," Shepard said. He added that without the funding, programs would have to be cut back.

Meanwhile, Girls Inc. received $40,000 - funding used in part to take more than 100 girls to swimming lessons at Potterfield Pool in the summer.

The grant also is being used to transport girls from seven schools to Girls Inc.'s office on Washington Avenue, helped pay for a gymnasium at the building and allows Girls Inc. to have a computer teacher at its center a few days a week, Grove said.

Girls involved with Girls Inc., an after-school program, learn how to become self-sufficient. They stay on weeknights until 8 p.m. and receive help with their homework, play sports such as basketball and volleyball, and take part in other activities.

Teens can participate in leadership retreats, programs are held on pregnancy and child abuse prevention, a kitchen is used to help girls learn how to cook, girls can take dance and gymnastics lessons on-site, and a technology center has 20 computers.

"We're like a second family to them," Grove said.

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