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Business turns charge-fees into charity

Money raised by Swipe4Kids with the help of Jason Bingham, left, and Samadhi Artemisa, middle, help Brad Jones, right, grow his school's gardening programs.

Money raised by Swipe4Kids with the help of Jason Bingham, left, and Samadhi Artemisa, middle, help Brad Jones, right, grow his school's gardening programs.

Brittni Larson

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At the right business, just with the swipe of their credit card, a consumer can help a school keep the sound of music flowing from band classes, kids’ hands happily mushing clay into little pinch-pots, and encourage the exuberant cheers of a teammates calling out for each other from across a sunny P.E. field.

It’s happening now at a few Orlando businesses through the company Swipe4TheKids. Traditionally, business pay banks a fee to process credit and debit card transactions, and the banks keep that fee for themselves. When a business chooses Swipe4TheKids as the electronic sale processor, 40 percent of the company’s profits generated by that fee go to local non-profit organizations and schools to provide money for enrichment programs. If the money goes to a school, Swipe4TheKids will first provide funding to help with any safety or nutritional issues, and then it will give money to approved programs in art, music, sports and other extra-curricular activities.

Swipe4TheKids CEO Peter Riggio said he chose enrichment programs because when public funding gets cut at schools, those are the first to go. He became frustrated seeing such important aspects of childhood being taken away from students, especially when some parents aren’t able to afford to provide those experiences on their own.

“They should be able to have reliability there at the school, and especially with youth enrichment, too, because it inspires kids, it gives them a sense of belonging,” he said.

“We want to eradicate funding shortfalls,” said Jason Bingham, the Florida program ambassador. “There shouldn’t be a school that doesn’t have a sports program, there shouldn’t be a school that can’t afford music instruments, there shouldn’t be a school that can’t afford art projects … and we can be a part of that.”

Riggio is based in Washington, and has businesses that use Swipe4TheKids all across the country. His company has contributed thousands of dollars to schools and nonprofits since its start in April 2012, and his goal is to donate $1 million this year. He said that if at least 20 percent of businesses in a community were to use Swipe4TheKids, the funds raised could help eliminate school funding issues.

To learn more about Swipe4TheKids and how to sign up your business, visit swipe4thekids.com or contact Jason Bingham at 407-234-4243 or jbingham@swipe4th.... Check out updates from the Orlando Junior Academy’s Edible Schoolyard at facebook.com/EdibleSchoolyardOrlando. More information about InJoy Healthcare can be found at injoyhealthcare.com

“You want to see funding problems become a thing of the past, support the businesses that are supporting your community, and you’re teaching them where to direct dollars, and we can see this issue go away,” he said. “The business sector has more than enough money to flip the coin to cover these funding gaps.”

Locally, three Orlando businesses use Swipe4TheKids toward that goal, including InJoy Healthcare, a holistic health center. Owner Samadhi Artemisa, a nutritionist, acupuncturist, and doctor of Oriental medicine, said she didn’t have to think twice about switching, especially when doing so not only did good, but also saved her money. Her business’ fees will help the Orlando Junior Academy’s Edible Schoolyard garden, a perfect match for Artemisa, who is passionate about teaching people about nutrition and eating local, fresh food, and has her own garden at home.

In addition to the empowering experience of growing and then eating their own food – students happily accept fresh broccoli as a treat for weeding, and one student demanded his mom buy him green beans at the grocery store – students also learn math, science and social studies in their garden.

“The idea is that it’s an outdoor classroom,” Bingham said.

They put history in the students’ hands. Growing cotton becomes a discussion about slavery, making their own tea from picking mint, lemongrass and stevia from the garden helped many students finally realize that during the Boston Tea Party, yes, it was leaves they were throwing into the harbor. And that was after they’d already had a test on the subject.

“We have these conversations about these events and about history and about social studies, but if kids don’t have that tangible experience, then you’re just talking about dates,” said Brad Jones, the school’s volunteer gardener and teacher.

They’ve been able to purchase a wheelbarrow with the money raised from Swipe4TheKids so far, and are working toward adding a building to the community garden they have across the street from the school. They want to make it a teaching facility, a place where parents can learn along with their children about nutrition and gardening. On Sundays, anyone can stop by the garden to work.

“They have a big vision,” Artemisa said.

“Most of what we do is dirt and seeds,” Jones said, “but when an opportunity like this comes along you start to see what is possible.”