March 25, 2013 10:15:13 AM
Sarah Fowler - email@example.com
Customers with CSpire Wireless now have the opportunity to donate to their favorite charities.
The cell phone provider implemented a new rewards program last week that allows customers to give money to nine charities. Under the company's old rewards program, customers earned points which could be redeemed for cash. Now, customers have the option of donating their rewards points to charity.
CSpire media relations manager David Miller said the cellular company decided to expand the option to donate to various charities after they had an overwhelming response to a similar charity drive in 2012.
Last October, CSpire customers donated more than $20,000 to the American Cancer Society during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
"That proved to us that there was a lot of interest," Miller said. "We went in and looked at and evaluated charities we had experience with and supported in the past and that are locally based or regionally based in our service area. We serve a part of the county that is very passionate about philanthropy and giving back.
"When we designed our loyalty program, we always intended to launch an element of it to use their points in different ways."
Columbus organizations Palmer Home for Children and Habitat for Humanity are two of the nine charities to which customers can donate rewards points.
Kathy Arinder, president of Mississippi Association for Habitat for Humanity Affiliate and the executive director for the Columbus-Lowndes affiliate, said donations from the wireless customers will make a huge difference in the life of Columbus residents.
"We are pretty much dependent on donations," Arinder said. "We can't build a home unless we have the funding."
Habitat for Humanity receives some federal grant money if a home recipient is disabled but every other home is built solely on the generosity of others.
"Other than (the federal grant money) we are completely dependent on the generosity of the community that we serve," Arinder said.
The Columbus chapter began building its first home of 2013 two weeks ago. Before Habitat can begin to build a home, it must be completely paid for. The family then makes low, interest-free mortgage payments to the organization, which then uses those funds to build another home.
Two local families have qualified for homes but the organization currently only has enough donations to build one house.
Arinder said donations, like the ones from CSpire customers, make all the difference in the world.
"We're doing a lot of good work here in Columbus," she said. "Every little bit helps."
Donations made to Habitat from the wireless customers will first go to the main office in Jackson and then be sent to the zip code where the customer lives.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah