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    The Go-go for Cocoa booth benefiting Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office gives out hot chocolate as a part of the Graham Chamber of Commerce’s Hot Chocolicious competition last year on the Graham downtown square. For a third year, 10 teams of Graham Junior High School students will compete from 5:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, alongside the Christmas parade and holiday events serving hot cocoa. (Leader file photo)

GJHS students raise nonprofit funding through Hot Chocolicious event

For a third year, teams of Graham Junior High School students will warm up the community during the Hot Chocolicious competition, battling to win multiple awards for nonprofits through the sale of hot chocolate.

The competition will take place from 5:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, alongside the Christmas parade and holiday events on the Graham downtown square. Forty-seven students are split into 10 teams for the event which doubles as an education program for the participants.

“It is an entrepreneurship training for junior high students, just to teach them about the mechanics of starting a business and how to go about that,” Graham Chamber of Commerce CEO Krisa De La Cruz said. “So we do a full day of training with local chamber members that come and teach about branding, about budgeting, applying for a loan, customer service (...) and then after that we give them a business plan template that they fill out as a group (...) and part of that training day and part of the program is all about philanthropy as well, so we do a training session during that day about all of the chamber member nonprofits and we tell them about what those nonprofits do, who they serve and etcetera.”

The program welcomes students from sixth through eighth grade which are grouped by each grade level.

The business plan created by the students has their mission statement, marketing plan, business name and the budget for their project. The student request a loan from one of the four local banks in Graham in order to get their project moving, De La Cruz said.

“We call it our “Shark Tank” day because then the bankers get to decide which teams they are going to extend the loan to and we have had situations where the bankers say, ‘You know what, your budget doesn’t make sense,’ and sometimes every once and awhile there is just a good lesson there, where maybe they have overestimated the number of cups they are going to sell or something like that, so they will send them out to work on their business plan and then they will come back in and present it again,” she said.

The loans are a maximum of $150 which the students can request as a startup loan so they can purchase their supplies and materials. The students additionally this year went through a miniature food handlers course taught by Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Penny Berend.

 De La Cruz said each team selects a nonprofit which will benefit from the proceeds collected during the Hot Chocolicious event. All of the profits made from the event are funneled back into local nonprofits, she said.

“Total, we have raised about $10,000 for nonprofits,” she said. “I mean, it is a little bit each year, but it adds up, so I think it is a really neat program.”

On the night of the Christmas parade, the teams set up their booths they created on the downtown square and sell their products to the public which attend the event. After the event, the Chamber makes the determination of who won each prize.

“After the Christmas parade, when we tally everything up and figure who did the best and who sold the most, we have a little finale (...) and we present them with their checks and they get to present them to the nonprofit organizations, so I think that is a really special part of our program, because they get to see that they are doing something really positive in the community,” she said. “And that to me is one of the best parts of the whole program, I love the whole thing, but one of the best parts because every year there have been times where some of those nonprofit organizations maybe are (struggling), I mean it is always tight when you are a charity organization, and they are so appreciative to those students.”

The teams use coco cash which is a cash exchange, similar to tickets at an event, and is a dollar-for-dollar ticket which is used for buying products at the event.

“We do that because it is a lot of cash changing hands that night and it being in a very public place with a whole lot of people, we just felt like for the safety and security of the students and also just some controls, we felt like that was just a smart way to go about it,” she said. “That’s worked really well overall and it still teaches students, you know, they still have to take the money and there is not really change, but it is still a good system of commerce to take part in.”

The winning team, based on profit margin, gets to additionally donate a check for $500 to their chosen nonprofit organization. Awards are also given out for best marketing and best product and packaging which are $250 awards for the nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofits and supporting teams

• Graham Crisis Center
Choco Buddies
• Young County
Warrior Ranch
Ol’ Chocolate
• Graham Evening
Lions Club
Five Chocolateers
• Kiwanis Club
Four Marshmallows
• Rotary Club
of Graham
Coco Clash
• Young County
Humane Society
Candycane Café
• Habitat for Humanity
 Winter Haven
• Knights of Columbus
 The Chocoholics
• Graham Noon
Lions Club
The Polar Expressos
• Virginia’s House
Hot Chocoletts

For the full story, see the Wednesday, Nov. 27 edition of The Graham Leader.

The Graham Leader

GRAHAM OFFICE
620 Oak Street
P.O. Box 600
Graham, Texas 76450
Phone: (940) 549-7800
Fax: (940) 228-0589