Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO’s (H2GO) latest project, Operation Round Up, will allow the utility’s customers to round their bills up to the next dollar, with the additional contribution going to local charities. Executive Director Bob Walker came up with the idea when he joined the Brunswick Community College Foundation’s Board of Directors in June 2016, and the project was unanimously approved at the August H2GO Board of Commissioners meeting.
The idea behind Operation Round Up is that it allows customers to give life to the adage “neighbors helping neighbors.” Contributions will help provide food, groceries, and educational opportunities that will benefit people in need throughout H2GO’s service area and Brunswick County, N.C. As a voluntary contributor to Operation Round Up, customers can choose to have their monthly water/sewer bill rounded up to the next highest dollar amount or choose to have an additional dollar amount added to their bill. The difference between the actual bill and the next highest dollar is the amount of the donation. With no administrative fees attached to this program, 100% of the contributions will go to assist those in need, thereby allowing these contributions to be tax-deductible for the customer. While the contribution can be as little as a penny a month, all proceeds will help the deserving charities.
“We love the idea of being able to give our customers an easy way to give. This community was built on a helping hand, and we look forward to being able to continue that today,” said Tyler Wittkofsky, H2GO’s public information officer. H2GO’s community has always been leveraged as one of giving and they want to keep this tradition alive by serving as a connection for neighbors to give back to neighbors. An average customer participating in Operation Round Up will contribute $6.00 per year.
H2GO has seen positive reception from its customers, many thrilled with the idea of having a way to give back to their community. One customer commented on the utilities Nextdoor post announcing the program: “I think this is a wonderful idea. I will definitely participate.” H2GO began promoting the project in print and social media in December, sent out fliers and sign-up forms with the January bills, and featured it in their February newsletter. H2GO has already received hundreds of sign-up forms, including several “Round Up Plus” contributors that will donate an additional dollar amount to their rounded-up bills. However, as with all new projects, H2GO has seen some bumps in the road.
“Our biggest challenge so far has been working with our billing company to get the software updated to account for the contributions,” Wittkofsky said. “However, it is looking like it will be up and running very soon.” H2GO is also unable to match customer contributions. “As much as we would love to be able to match customer contributions at the end of the year, we cannot. Due to our status as a governmental utility, all of our proceeds must go back to the improvement of the utility and its infrastructures,” explained Wittkofsky.
Each year, H2GO will select two charities to donate the proceeds to. The two charities that have been selected for this year’s cycle of Operation Round Up are Manna Ministries and The Brunswick Community College Foundation. Manna Ministries feeds around 125 families a month in Brunswick County. All donations to Manna Ministries will go directly to the purchase of food to help in the fight against hunger.
The Brunswick Community College Foundation will establish a scholarship fund with the donations that will go toward assisting Brunswick County students, young adults, single parents, veterans, and aged workers seeking to advance their education and employment opportunities. Last year, the Brunswick Community College Foundation gave over $209,000 in scholarships to deserving students. The charities will split the proceeds 50/50.
“The goal is to have at least a 40 percent customer participation rate. With this, we could garner an estimated $2,000 a month in donated funds, giving us $24,000 a year for these two deserving charities,” Walker said. He hopes that other utilities in the community will follow suit to raise more money for the many deserving charities and nonprofits that assist the community in many ways.
Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO is a government utility established in 1976 that provides water and sewer services to northern area of Brunswick County, including Navassa, Leland, and Belville, N.C. H2GO currently provides water to approximately 10,000 customers.