Gainesville Public Utilities customers will have the option to enroll in a program that will help their neighbors in need simply by paying their water bill.
Beginning this month, city customers can round up their bills to the nearest dollar, with the extra change going to the Salvation Army's Project SHARE.
Project SHARE began in 1985 and has helped more than a million people by providing emergency assistance to Georgians in need of help with housing, medical care and utility services.
All contributions are spent on assistance in the county where the donation was made. Eligible recipients for Project SHARE are determined by the Salvation Army.
"I think the real benefit of this program is that it will allow our customers to help and benefit the other customers, it will actually be our customers helping customers," Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said.
The public utilities program is called H2O Help to Others, and is similar to round-up programs offered by Georgia Power and Jackson EMC. Customers who chose to participate will see an extra line on their statement each month showing the amount that was rounded up. Since that amount cannot exceed 99 cents each month, the most participants would contribute is less than $12 a year.
"A little change for them can make a big difference for others," Tina Wetherford, Finance and Administration Division Manager for Public Utilities said.
"Money goes to the Salvation Army but it comes back to the community, the city of Gainesville, to customers to assist with their water bill."
Public Utilities officials estimate that if only 10 percent of their customers chose to participate, they could generate more than $55,000 a year. If 25 percent of their customers contributed, that number would rise to more than $130,000 a year. The success of Help to Others depends on customer participation.
"If participation is high and dollars are available, we will be able to expand the program to where if someone had a real problem — say they need to get a leak repaired or needed to build a well, and needed to buy a water meter — we could help," Randall said.
Customers will receive the H2O Help to Others form this month and can opt in and out at any time.