Owen school district wants local businesses to look for letterhead before giving

Administrators implement new practice for those soliciting funds on behalf of Swannanoa Valley schools

Fred McCormick

A common thread among many businesses in the Swannanoa Valley is their shared support for schools in the Owen district. Contributions from business owners in the community are crucial to funding extracurricular activities like athletics and band.

That generosity can be taken advantage of, and a new practice in the district aims to reassure those who want to help local schools that their money is going to directly to programs that benefit students in the Valley.

Roger Brown has owned his Black Mountain business, Hunters & Treasures, since 1991. He’s also been the president of the Owen Athletics Boosters Club since 2010. So when he got a call recently from someone soliciting his business’s support through an advertisement, he knew to be wary.

“I’ve been approached by multiple companies,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll solicit over the phone. Sometimes they’ll have a representative come by and say they’re a representative of Owen High School, and they’ll tell you they're making merchandise with your business name to pass out at the school. Those footballs or T-shirts or whatever will show up at the school, but none of the money goes to the school.”

The helmet worn by Owen High School quarterback Audun Meyers is just one example of where money raised by the Owen Athletic Boosters Club goes, according to president and Black Mountain business owner Roger Brown.

Brown’s relationship with the school through the booster club allows him to recognize these calls for what they are, he said. But many businesses might not know that their contributions aren't going to fund programs at the school.

Owen High School principal Meg Turner is working with her fellow administrators throughout the district to make sure money given to help local schools goes where it's intended. Clubs and organizations soliciting money or sponsorships from local businesses on behalf of Owen High School should have a standard letter on school letterhead with the principal's signature, she said.

"If any student or adult comes into a business and says they are doing something or collecting something on behalf of Owen, then the businesses should ask if they have a letter to that effect," Turner said. "Or they should pick up the phone and call the school to verify."

The letter will include a time frame for the sale (if something is being sold), what is being sold and the cost, according to Turner, who is encouraging the rest of the schools in the district to incorporate the same practice. The letter will be discussed among administrators during the September district principal meeting.

"We're so incredibly fortunate to be a community's school, and our tie to the Swannanoa Valley is an important part of who we are," Turner said. "Our community is so good to us, and they get hit up for donations all the time. We're aware of that. Sometimes it's individual students asking for sponsorships or financial assistants. And sometimes there are clubs, sports teams and bands raising money."

One of those clubs is the Owen Athletic Boosters Club. The nonprofit organization raises money for athletic programs at the school and is not controlled by the school. Turner describes the club "like our first cousins."

Organizations like the athletic boosters club and the band booster club raise money for things like the high school's sign that was placed on the corner of Lake Eden Road and Old U.S. 70 last year.

"We raised about $27,000 from local businesses in about six to eight months to put that sign down on the corner," Turner said. "So we really don't want people who aren't connected to our school going out there and hitting (businesses) up."

The high school will provide the band and athletic booster organizations with copies of the letter, Turner said.

Brown believes the new practice will funnel all the money to the high school. "Our ultimate goal is to help the kids," he said. "And this rule will do that."