Through its Operation Round Up® program, the Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Foundation awarded 224 grants in 2019 – the program’s first year – for a total of $96,513. The foundation was created by Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SVEC) in 2018 as a tax-exempt non-profit organization. The purpose of the foundation and the Operation Round Up program is to help meet the funding needs of local schools.
Under the program, the monthly electric bills of participating SVEC consumer-members are rounded up to the next whole dollar. For example, a bill of $63.73 is rounded up to $64.00, with the extra 27 cents going into the Operation Round Up fund. The amount of the average monthly round up was 49 cents per account in 2019.
All money raised through Operation Round Up goes toward grants for equipment and materials that directly benefit students in the classroom. The grants are available to appropriately certified prekindergarten-12th grade teachers at accredited independent/private schools in SVEC's service territory, and at public schools in Hamilton County, Lafayette County, Suwannee County or Columbia County (Five Points and Pinemount elementary schools only).
Items purchased using grant money include books, lab equipment, art supplies, subscriptions to online learning resources, math aids and much more. Suwannee High School teacher Jay Jolicoeur says his new lab equipment allows his chemistry students to get the hands-on experience they need. “It prepares them to score well on the AP test and gives them some experience working with good equipment. That will benefit them if they go to college and go into a science field. It’s just huge.”
All items purchased using Operation Round Up grants are the property of the grant recipient's school. “As a smaller school district, we don’t have as many optional funds for extra things our teachers might need,” says Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rex Mitchell. “So any time we can receive funding from a private entity like SVEC, it allows us to use those funds as teachers need them.”
The foundation’s board of directors screens all grant applications from teachers and decides which grants to award. The board consists of nine directors, one appointed by each of SVEC’s trustees. Each director brings their own experience in education and business to the board. Decisions on funding are made collectively by the board, with the best interest of the community and its students in mind.
“SVEC members who participate in Operation Round Up recognize that many teachers pay out of their own pocket to improve the learning environment in our schools,” says Michelle Lord, vice president of the Operation Round Up Board. “Each member contributes less than a dollar a month, but it adds up. Collectively, we can help teachers get the tools they need without them having to spend their own money.”