Giving Back to Those Who Give the Most
Lisa and Lantz Smith of Huntington Fine Jewelers have always had a passion for supporting teachers. “I remember back when I was on the PTA when my children were in school in Norman,” Lisa recollects. “Back then, our focus was on getting air conditioning in the gym. I remember working so hard to raise money and feeling like it was such a big project.”
This feeling was familiar to the Smiths as they began looking for a way to make a difference for educators in the greater Cleveland County area over the past year. “We kept hearing over and over about how our teachers needed our help and we were wondering what we could do,” she reflects. “Sometimes it just feels like it is too big. But we have all been impacted at some point in our lives by an important teacher, so we knew it was worth it.”
In March 2017, the Smiths offered $100 gift cards for their store to teachers and support staff in Moore Public Schools in honor of teacher appreciation week. “The feedback was wonderful,” Lantz said. “We would see some of them come in teary-eyed for being able to pick out something nice. I think it helped them to know that someone was on their side.”
From there, the Smiths expanded the program to include local fire departments, police departments and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “We wanted to make sure all our first responders and those on the front line knew how much we appreciated and valued them as well.” Lantz smiles as he recalls some of the firefighters’ disbelief when they came in to use their gift cards. “The fire truck would pull up and the firefighters would come in laughing, not completely sure that it was for real.”
In December 2017, Huntington decided to expand the program to an even larger scale. “We kicked off the Christmas Holiday Educator Encouragement and Refreshment Project, or CHEER, project,” Lisa explains. “We gave $100 gift cards to all school personnel in the greater Oklahoma City area. In addition to the classroom teachers, we made sure to include support staff and administrators. We wanted to make sure we included everyone from the principal to the janitors, cafeteria staff and bus drivers.”
More than 52,000 teachers, school administrators and support personnel at 500 schools in central Oklahoma received the gift certificates, expanding the program’s reach throughout 80 different school districts. “We wanted to be sure we had items that they could buy with their gift cards without having to add their own money,” Lisa explains. “We had a great selection of Citizen watches, bracelets, Fossil watches, pearl earrings, pendants and more that were readily available.”
The Smiths say that their biggest sense of satisfaction came from the camaraderie and compassion that they shared when teachers came in to redeem their gift cards. “I think the teachers truly felt like someone listened and truly cared,” Lisa explains. “We would encourage them to get something for themselves and treat themselves, instead of buying for someone else.”
“Teachers are great with thank you notes, so before too long, our entire break room door was covered. One school sent a photo of their entire staff with a huge thank you banner,” Lisa recalls.
“It was truly special because it brought teachers from all areas together. We became the place to meet,” Lantz adds. “Teachers from around the state would visit and share stories when they came in to shop. Our goal was to have them leave feeling better than when they walked in. And on the last day, we treated them to a champagne toast and ended with a big celebration.”
Looking back the CHEER project, Lantz credits Huntington’s staff for helping make the program a success. “Our staff truly gave their heart,” he concludes. “They worked long hours, but they knew it was important. We feel like what we do is a calling, and we know it is like that for teachers as well. This was just our way of giving back to those who give so much every day.”
For more information on the good that Huntington does in the community, visit HuntingtonFineJewelers.com.