Jan Lewis recently found a parking ticket on her windshield at Zona Rosa.
But she wasn’t disgruntled at the inconvenience or the expense for time expired on a parking meter.
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“I gladly paid the $5 fine,” Lewis said. She knew the penalty for overparking meant more money for nonprofit organizations.
Fines such as hers pushed Zona Rosa’s “Change for Charity” program to the $1 million mark last month.
Collected from parking meters and tickets over the last 10 years, the money has been passed to 180 Kansas City area nonprofits in grants, through charitable events at the shopping center and in scholarships to Northland high school graduates.
“Part of our mission is to help local nonprofits financially and to increase awareness of the charities in our community and what they do,” said Rosemary Salerno, general manager of Zona Rosa.
Although free parking is available in surface lots and garages throughout the shopping center, shoppers who park on more convenient interior streets pay 25 cents for 15 minutes, up to a dollar for 60 minutes, on 275 meters. Sixty meters offer 90 minutes of shopping time and accept credit or debit cards.
When time runs out on a meter, Zona Rosa’s security patrol officers issue tickets. Shoppers can pay on site or by mail.
“Parking tickets and parking meter change really do add up,” Lewis said.
As director of the North Kansas City Schools Education Foundation, she knows first hand: The education foundation received $7,505.70 from proceeds collected in March and April. That helped fund 100 small grants to enhance student learning, Lewis said.
Since Zona Rosa started the “Change for Charity” program in 2004, a wide variety of worthy causes has benefitted —from educating students to caring for animals to providing housing for individuals in need.
For nonprofits that depend entirely upon donations and volunteers, the grants have enabled them to increase the services they provide and help more individuals.
“The much-needed funds were used in part to purchase medical equipment and clinic supplies,” said Goldie Arnold of the Northland Animal Welfare Society, an all-volunteer coalition for Clay and Platte counties.
The society operates the Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic in Riverside to assist pets of owners who meet income guidelines and to help reduce the free-roaming cat population through a trap-neuter-release program.
Arnold said the society encouraged its members to help boost funds during their designated months by letting time run out on the meter.
The top three recipients from the past three years have been Harvest Ball at $47,000; Park Hill School District Educational Foundation at $64,000; and at the top — Synergy Services, Inc. with $199,000.
“The proceeds benefit Synergy’s mission to end family violence through crisis response, shelter, counseling, advocacy and education,” said Dennis Meier, associate executive director.
In 2014, twice as many charities will be eligible for the meter grants.
“To assist more organizations, we will select 12 ‘Change for Charity’ partners instead of our typical six,” Salerno said. “We will rotate monthly, not bimonthly.”