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photo of smiling student volunteers

For immediate release — Dec. 1, 2011

(DALLAS) — When North Lake College students find their budgets can’t make ends meet, they don’t always go to a local discount store. They know their Blazer Bucks (and, on Nov. 30, their Santa Bucks) make a difference in their lives; the buck stops there, at North Lake College, where they can buy food, gently worn clothing and toys, or necessities they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Instead of doing without, they can take their Blazer Bucks to the new, permanent Blazer Student Store where they can feed and clothe themselves and their families, provide toys for their children and even volunteer to work in the store to help pay their way. Most items in the store cost one Blazer Buck, and everything is donated by the college’s faculty, staff or students — or sometimes brought in by students to trade for other items. It’s a thrift store that uses Blazer Bucks for currency.

And the concept came from students themselves 10 years ago, when journalism majors for the campus newspaper, the North Lake News-Register, tried to think of ways to help students make it through the holidays.

“In fall 2002, the News-Register staff and Journalism Club members began to hear stories of hardships among students, the result of a post-9/11 economy,” recalled Kathleen Stockmier, student publications manager at the college. “The rising unemployment rate triggered an increase in college enrollment, and many at North Lake needed help. Christmas was approaching, and it was going to be a bleak holiday season for many.

“So the writers and editors brainstormed and came up with an idea: send out a campuswide email; ask for donations of food, clothing, housewares and miscellaneous items; and give it all away free to students by using a play-money system known as Santa Bucks,” Stockmier added.

And that’s how Santa Bucks were born. Generous donations came in from the North Lake College family, and students who signed up on the day of the event received $20 in Santa Bucks to purchase what they needed. Nine years later, the Santa Bucks project evolved into the Blazer Student Store, which offers help to students year-round. (Canned foods and nonperishable items now are called the Blazer Food Bank supply.)

The sustainable store, run by students for students, receives money from a fund set up by the News-Register. Portions of the campus newspaper’s advertising revenue are deposited into the store’s account on a regular basis — money that already has paid for shelving, printing and miscellaneous supplies to get the new facility off the ground.