Columbia organization for at-risk children hopes to win Pepsi competition

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 | 7:19 p.m. CST; updated 12:05 p.m. CST, Monday, February 28, 2011
The Intersection hopes to win $250,000 in funds from The Pepsi Refresh Competition. Here’s how they would use the money:

COLUMBIA — A nonprofit organization for at-risk children could have a new playground and a bigger garden if it gets enough votes.

The Intersection, which offers instructional programs for children in at-risk families, hopes to buy the 3 acres of leased land the organization's building sits on to make needed improvements.

How to vote

Voters are allowed to vote once every day. Voting ends Jan. 31.

Because the land is leased, the organization cannot make improvements on the property, and there are still 17 years left on the lease, said Dana Battison, executive director of The Intersection.

“There are a lot of things we can't do if we don’t own it,” Battison said.

Winning $250,000 from the Pepsi Refresh Competition would allow the organization to make this happen.

The Pepsi Refresh Competition is Pepsi's way of giving back to local communities. Groups or individuals submit their community projects to be voted on. The project with the most votes in each category (health, art & culture, food & shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education) wins funds ranging from $5,000 to $250,000.

There are 1,151 project ideas in the competition this year, according to the competition website. As of Jan. 5, The Intersection ranked 188th in the neighborhoods section.

“It’s free to vote, and it really helps,” said George Thomas, development director of The Intersection.

Thomas said current funding for The Intersection mainly comes from businesses and private donations, as well as federal grants. He said the competition could help the program gain support and exposure. 

Thomas also said owning the property would be helpful for security reasons.

“It’s not private property, and anyone can get into it,” Thomas said.

The organization has more than 150 at-risk children enrolled in its programs. Some of them come from low-income families, and some of their households cannot afford child care.

“We really know that times are hard right now, but it makes it harder when you have juvenile crime rising, more teenage pregnancies and children dropping out of the schools,” Thomas said. “What we are trying to do is to change that for everybody’s good.”

All the staff at The Intersection are volunteers, and most of them are college students. Time schedules for the volunteers are flexible. They can choose what they want to do and when they want to do it, Thomas said.

Thomas said businesses have noticed a difference since The Intersection came to Columbia, and the organization has noticed an increase in the number of children going to college.

“If we fail the competition, we will keeping trying to raise the amount of money required,” Thomas said.

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