BROOKSVILLE — As an educator, Beverly Chapin knows how books can influence a child's life.
The Eastside Elementary principal has wanted to provide the students at her school with new books for quite some time. However, with budget cuts and a dismal economy, funding for public schools has been difficult to obtain.
Until Big Lots came along.
The discount retailer gave more than $3,000 each to two Hernando County elementary schools, Brooksville and Eastside, for winning one of several second-place honors in Big Lots' annual "Lots2Give" video contest Friday.
"We are so lucky to be awarded this prize," Chapin said. "Especially during hard times like this, it's amazing."
The two local schools were among 46 schools nationwide that competed for a share of $80,000 in prizes. Brooksville and Eastside were selected by Big Lots to present a short video and a brief essay on why their school was in financial need.
The projects were uploaded on the Big Lots Web site where visitors could cast votes from June 11 to July 12.
After more than 300,000 votes, Big Lots selected one $10,000 grand prize winner, three $5,000 first-prize winners and 22 $2,500 second-prize winners.
The grand prize was awarded to John E. Ewing Middle School in Gaffney, S.C.
In addition to the $2,500 provided by Big Lots, each school was given $659.40 from their share of donations at Big Lots stores in the Tampa Bay area.
"We are using the money on books," Chapin said. "Newer, interesting books will get kids reading and test scores up."
Ginger Chase, Big Lots' regional vice president for the Southeast, said Big Lots cares deeply about the Hernando community and seeks to become involved when possible.
"There's nothing better than supporting schools," Chase said. "Education really is the key to success."
Brooksville Mayor Joe Bernardini attended the event Friday and thanked Big Lots for their donations to two struggling schools. "It's great to see two schools in Hernando County realize these wonderful prizes," he said.
Brooksville Elementary principal Mary LeDoux accepted the check on behalf of her school. "I'm so excited I have chills," LeDoux said after being handed the large check for $3,159.40.
LeDoux said Brooksville Elementary will also use the prize money toward books.
Ryan Strong can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.