Longtime Shawnee plant GF Central Plastics LLC has been handed an edict from above and has rallied its resources and joined with partners to achieve a worthy mission.

Note: An in-depth look at how a Shawnee manufacturer is teaming up with area businesses and the community to raise funds that will bring water-filtration systems to third-world countries and disaster areas through a globally active nonprofit group.

Longtime Shawnee plant GF Central Plastics LLC has been handed an edict from above and has rallied its resources and joined with partners to achieve a worthy mission.

Central Plastics' parent company –– a worldwide corporation called GF Piping Systems –– has shared a desire to be a part of bringing water filtration systems to those in need, and as such, has issued a challenge to its employees to raise funds toward that cause.

The challenge will continue until the end of September.

Rodney Ackerman, from Central Plastics' maintenance department, is the local site's promoter and champion of the fundraising effort.

“We have 170 companies participating; some are doing a walk for water benefit,” he said, “but we didn't feel like we had enough time to put something like that together, so we came up with some different ideas.”

He said each company had free rein to come up with their own money-making events.

“We've got some internal challenges set up,” he said, “like having water jugs around the plant to collect loose change.”

One of the bigger ideas was a grocery-shopping spree open to the community.

Ackerman spearheaded the shopping spree fundraiser.

“We printed 2,000 tickets; our goal is to sell them all,” he said.

But his feelings wouldn't be hurt if the store ran out of tickets. “I will gladly print more if I need to,” he said.

Ackerman said proceeds will go to the nonprofit Water Mission, which provides systems for clean water to third-world countries and areas of disaster.

For more information, visit watermission.org.

“GF Central Plastics LLC is matching all funds collected dollar-for-dollar,” Teri Wickware, marketing coordinator, said.

Tickets are $10 each. Central Plastics' partner for the challenge is Citizen Potawatomi Nation FireLake Discount Foods, at 1570 Gordon Cooper Drive in Shawnee.

Ackerman said, “We called FireLake because they are community-based, like we feel we are –– instead of a national chain.”

Mike Lester, FireLake store manager, said ticket sales are set up as an item in store's system so they can keep an accurate count.

One winner will be chosen for every 500 tickets sold, Wickware said.

“We'll sell them right up until Central Plastics tells us not to,” Lester said.

Ackerman said the drawing is set for 8 a.m. Sept. 23, and the shopping spree(s) will begin at 8 a.m. Sept. 30.

Lester said the business was happy to help.

“We like to partner with different organizations,” he said. “Any way we can help in a community effort –– or bigger, in this case –– we like to do. We saw an opportunity to do something good.”

Lester said all the funds from ticket sales go toward the fundraiser.

“Our part is just an avenue to help publicize the event,” Lester said.

The store began selling the tickets this week.

The rules of the grocery grab are determined by Central Plastics, Lester said. “They are the deciding factor in how it will go.”

A partial list of contest rules:

• Must be 18 to buy a ticket.

• Alcohol, tobacco, gift cards, medicine and lottery tickets are not eligible.

• Spree winner has 10 minutes –– the shopper must be back at the checkout by the time of the buzzer to win the groceries in the cart.

• The first item in each cart must be a case of water.

• Limit one 'like' item per individual. Lester said the goal is to have customers buy as many different items as possible –– instead of just clearing a particular shelf or item.

• Ticket buyers do not need to be present at the time of the drawing to win –– they will be notified by telephone. Lester said the handling of the tickets is similar to a raffle. The customer's name, address and phone number will be required.

Water Mission

According to the nonprofit's website, watermission.org, in 1998, founders, Molly and George Greene, were operating an environmental engineering company in Charleston, South Carolina, when they heard about the devastation in Honduras caused by Hurricane Mitch. After receiving a request for multiple water treatment systems in Honduras, and being unable to find existing systems that would work, George and his team of engineers took action to build such a system – and thus the idea for Water Missions International was born.

The group's staff members work with permanent country programs to design safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) solutions for communities located in Africa, Asia, North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.

The company states on its site that it has provided safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) solutions in more than 50 countries and have over 250 staff members working around the world in permanent country programs.

“We provide solutions for those who live in communities around the world that lack safe water and sanitation and those who are suffering as a result of a disaster or emergency situation,” the site reads.

To date, Water Mission said it has 650 community development and disaster projects currently underway.

The site states that 2,000 safe water and sanitation solutions have been built.

So far, Water Missions said it has provided three million people with clean water.

It's not a cheap endeavor, though.

One water filtration unit can provide clean water for as many as 5,000 people, but each system has a price tag of around $10,000.

That's why Water Mission is so appreciative of companies like GF Piping Systems.

“Georg Fischer is an extremely generous, strategic partner for Water Mission,” said Sandy Funk, director of marketing and communication for Water Mission. “Their product technology and fundraising efforts allow us to deliver sustainable safe water systems to millions of people in East Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and in other places around the world."

Funk said major corporations aren't the only ones with a heart to help.

“We are also seeing many small companies including retail, entertainment, and health/wellness businesses that leverage fundraising events or give a percentage of sales to Water Mission in order to attract a growing number of socially conscious customers and grow their sales.”

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.