Lawrence nonprofit agencies are getting their first glimpse at how a new free dining card program is paying off.
Patrons of local, independently owned businesses have generated $20,000 in charitable contributions for multiple organizations since the inception of the Lawrence GiveBack program, which started in late February.
Participating establishments said they’re pleased by its success and hope it continues to grow.
“The more people become aware of it, the better it’s going to be,” said Doug Holiday, owner of Bigg’s BBQ, 2429 Iowa, one of 17 Lawrence restaurants that participate in the program. “If people start tuning in on that, it’s going to help our economy.”
The confederation of restaurants, known as the Lawrence Originals, and Checkers grocery store are participating in the program. Each time a patron presents a free GiveBack card at one of the businesses, the business donates money to a local charity of the cardholder’s choice.
To date, about 7,000 people carry the card and have spent about $1.3 million at the participating businesses, said Constance Wolfe, who is paid to manage the GiveBack program.
The restaurants donate 5 percent of food bills, and Checker’s donates 1 percent of grocery bills, to the cardholder’s chosen charity. The cards are available at the participating restaurants and charities, which are listed at the program’s Web site, lawrencegiveback.com.
“People are using it, but I think it will continue to grow as people see the amount of money that is going to go to local charities,” said Hilary Brown, owner of Local Burger, 714 Vt., which participates in the program.
Wolfe said the program has started cutting the first checks to participating charities, many of which are searching anywhere they can for money, as they deal with budget cuts and rising costs.
The payoffs, which were celebrated at the Fourth of July festival the groups sponsored downtown, been highest for the Lawrence Humane Society, 1805 E. 19th St., which received a check for $5,700 through the program.
“Our costs are huge, so having some extra money come in really makes a difference,” said Midge Grinstead, humane society executive director.
National Public Radio and Habitat for Humanity were each issued $1,300 checks. Other checks have yet to be cut, Wolfe said.
Diners, themselves, also are rewarded for participating in the program. They receive one point for every dollar spent at the participating restaurants. For every 200 points collected, they’ll have $10 added to their card to spend at participating businesses.
Each quarter, Checkers will place dollars on the card equal to 1 percent of total spending at the grocery store.