Charles Gibson, president and CEO of Amicalola Electric Membership Corp., presented the giant check to Clayton PTA co-presidents Chrissa Hofstetter and Kelly Cline in the school’s gymnasium during a pep rally for students, featuring members of the Cherokee High School band and cheerleaders.
The contribution is the largest single financial donation to an individual Cherokee school since 2003, according to district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby.
“Mrs. Hofstetter contacted me and wrote me a letter talking about this new playground,” Gibson told the students. “And she asked if we could help … and I said I would talk with the board of directors and they approved us helping you with the playground.”
As one of the Amicalola EMC staffers brought the check toward the stage, the crowd of kindergarten through fifth-grade students roared with applause upon seeing the total.
“Congratulations and we’re glad to do it,” Gibson said to the room full of children.
Hofstetter held back tears as she told the students about how the playground initiative began.
“When we started back at school this year… I said to you guys, I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we were going to find a way to get a playground in here,” Hofstetter said. “We weren’t going to let you kids go without.”
Principal Beth Long said she was watching some of the students’ faces when the check came out and she could tell all of the boys and girls were excited.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Gibson and to your Board of Directors for being great supporters of the students of Cherokee County,” Long said.
Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Janet Read also addressed the students, teachers and staff.
“I just want to say, you guys have an awesome PTA,” Read said. “These moms and dads have worked really hard and I know what a big job that is, so you should be really, really thankful.”
Assistant Superintendent Brian Hightower greeted the students and thanked Amicalola EMC on behalf of Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo.
“It teaches us something in this moment as well, and that’s to be involved in the community and that’s something that you can do as well,” Hightower said to the students. “We hope you guys have a great time when you play on the playground.”
Gibson later said the $45,000 came from unclaimed properties served by the electric services company and due to a recent change in state law, the money can be used locally.
Hofstetter, who joked that she wanted to march around downtown Canton with the check, said replacing the school’s 15-year-old playground has been a focus of the PTA for the last two years.
When discussing the possibility of reaching out to the school’s community partners earlier this year, Hofstetter said Amicalola EMC immediately came to mind.
“We took a chance and wrote a letter and they never hesitated (about giving the donation),” she said. “It’s such a blessing that they came through with the amount we asked for.”
Hofstetter said the donation from Amicalola EMC will enable the school to construct the first phase of the playground, which will have three phases and cost about $95,000 in total. The initial structure, a pre-built playground by Playworx Playsets in Marietta, will feature bridges, monkey bars and two different slides.
“Right now, we are working on a timeline,” Hofstetter said. “The wheels have started turning but there’s no exact date (to begin construction.)”
Long said the donation is important for the school, as play structures are mostly considered by district officials as an amenity rather than a need. She added the donation is especially appreciated in the current state of budget cuts throughout the district tying up local Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.
“The school district looks to local PTAs to help with those types of things,” Long said. “To now have that money in one fell swoop is very exciting.”