Fundraiser offers shoppers fantasy for prize—three minute shopping spree at Ric’s

Rockford Interact has partnered with Batey 106 in Dominican Republic

Once in a lifetime opportunity for foodies

By BETH ALTENA

You can probably make it to the meat department in about thirty seconds. Or would you want to hit the canned seafood and pile in the caviar. Or would expensive oils be the better first option? A three minute, all-you-can-pack-in-your-cart shopping spree is the grand prize of a RHS Interact fundraiser and a $10 ticket will deliver this dream prize to one lucky shopper. There are some exceptions, a $500 limit,  and no alcohol and no lottery because of state law, but other than that, your imagination and enthusiasm will be the limit.

Nicole Huber is a senior at Rockford High School and one of the organizers of this fundraiser, which is raising money to build two school rooms in the Dominican Republic. The students of Interact, which is a division of Rotary, have been holding a variety of events, from a High School evening babysitting to Breakfast With Santa this past Saturday, for their project. She is excited about this major fundraiser and has received positive feedback from the public.

Rotary Interact has been partnering with a batey in the Dominican, a village surrounded by sugar cane that features about 500 residents who work cutting sugarcane. The batey, identified as number 106, is a typical community for residents in that country. Currently there are two school rooms that allow the kids of the batey to attend kindergarten through fourth grade. The two other school rooms will give the local children the opportunity to attend school through eighth grade, giving the ambitious ones the chance to continue an education by traveling to a high school. Currently this is not an option for children of Batey #106.

Huber has been to the batey once and was impressed with the people there. She and other Interact kids from Rockford helped build a wall around a playground so it will be safe. She said the kids from the village were friendly and helpful, holding on to the buckets of water to mix cement and helping Interact kids lift and carry.

“They were teaching us to speak Spanish and learning English words,” she said. She said her group will return in February to work on another job in the village.

She said daily life in the Dominican Republic is very different. The last trip was also in February, and even in that winter month the temperatures were hot. Kids there were wearing donated clothes, so some wore items too big or too small or had hardly any clothes at all. Not all the kids even own shoes, she said.

The school system, such as it is, is very important for the communities of the Dominican, and kids often are fed there, as well as being educated. Not many can aspire to a life other than as a sugar cane cutter, but education is nearly the only way to escape that future.

“Everyone’s prize is to donate money to help these kids and help build them two new school rooms,” she said of the fundraiser. Buying a ten dollar ticket gives purchasers that peace of mind, but also the chance to win the shopping spree, a second place $100 gift card to Ric’s or a third-place $50 gift card to Ric’s.

Kelly Gardner is the Interact adult organizer for the fundraiser. She said the shopping spree was an idea that was both local and different. She said Ric’s is always easy to work with for the events Interact and Rockford Schools work on, so she asked Store Director David Brickner if Ric’s would like to be involved. “He was onboard immediately,” she said.

The drawing for the winning ticket will be at Rockford High School on January 11 before the day of the shopping spree to be held January 19. According to Gardner, that is to give the winner time to scope the store and create a plan. Because of the generosity of Ric’s and the high school Renaissance Club, every penny of every ticket will go toward the school project. It isn’t a modest one, with a price tag of just over $60,000. So far, Gardner reports, the club has commitments of nearly $30,000.

Kids in Batey 106

She said that amount will allow the construction of one of the two school rooms to begin soon. It is a very worthy cause. Gardner said the Rockford Interact group and the Saugatuck Interact Club have been partnering and made good progress improving the lives in Batay #106 over the past seven years.

“We gave them clean water with a bio-sand filter and sanitation with latrines,” she described. “The only reason there are two school rooms now is we built one that allows kids to go to school to fourth grade. Before that there was only one that went through second grade. “The first two improvements were great for health and well-being, but they (the families in Batey 106) made it very clear that education is next. Without it there is no way for kids to get a better life.”

She describes living conditions for the villages, most of them Haitian immigrants to the Dominican Republic, as challenging. Many are brought in from Haiti with the promise of a better life. She said the bateys there are reminiscent of old American steel and coal communities, were the towns are practically owned by the company. People who come there work hard and have little opportunity to improve their own futures or hope for a better future for their children—a universal goal of parents everywhere.

Kids in Batey 106

Building another school to bring kids up to sixth grade and then to eighth grade is roughly the equivalent of a high school degree. Gardner said there is a high school villagers can attend, but they have to go through eighth grade in order to attend. Currently the kids of Batay #106 have no chance of that. Once these two school rooms are built, there will be a hope for more education and a different future than cutting sugar cane.

“Our plan is right now through the end of the year to be halfway through fundraising and they can get started on the first school room, then we will have a year to raise the rest of the money for the second room,” she stated.

The shopping spree tickets are available at Genesis Salon, at 500 Northland Drive, Rockford or at the Rockford Squire Newspaper offices at 331 Northland Drive (M-F 9a.m. to 5p.m.) or by contacting Kelly at kgardner@rockfordschools.org.

Tickets would make a perfect Christmas present or just a present with a good cause. Gardner said some people are intimidated by thought of three minutes in the spotlight with a whole store to choose from, but there are plenty of options.

“One woman told me she would be too nervous to do the spree. She said ‘Give me ten tickets and if I win, an Interact kid can do the spree and send all the groceries to North Kent Connect.’” Gardner also noted, the lucky winner of the spree is allowed to have a runner. “You can buy tickets for your 70 year old grandmother, and if she wins, she can have a grandchild do the running for her.” And all the proceeds go to a wonderful cause, so take the chance and buy your tickets today. And set the timer. How long does it take to get back of the store to the famous Ric’s meat department? Plan a route to race past the best aisle items along the way.

Brickner said it sounded a little scary to have the shopping spree at the store, but he is looking forward to it. “They promised to take care of anything that gets broken, and it will only be a few minutes. We can handle it.”