A Mustang man has launched a new website that will serve as a place for people to conveniently buy and sell goods while raising funds for safe rooms in Oklahoma schools.
Justin Williams started ‘Support OK Schools’ last week and said he hopes word spreads about the new website (www.supportokschools.com)
"I was using garage sale groups on Facebook to buy and sell things and I, along with other members, were getting frustrated with how the buyers would not show up for a transaction," Williams said. "After awhile I thought about starting an online community that would be like Craigslist, but safer and give buyers the opportunity to donate a percentage of their funds to a shelter fund for any school in the state."
Williams grew up in Union City and graduated from Union City High School in 1998. He played baseball in the minor leagues for the San Diego Padres and received a degree in computer programming.
When a tornado struck Moore last year, he helped with the relief efforts.
"I spent two weeks in Moore helping out with a disaster team and safe rooms became a real hot topic in our state after that," he said.
"I have a son that goes to Trails Elementary in Mustang and a daughter that goes to school in Blanchard and when we had those storms, that really hit close to home. Now that we are approaching the one-year anniversary of these storms, I don’t want us to lose site that we need to have safe rooms in every school."
With that in mind, when Williams decided to start work on his new website, he decided to incorporate it with his mission of helping fund safe rooms for schools in Oklahoma.
Being a single father of three and working full-time keeps Williams busy. Working on the new website over the course of the last year was like another full-time job.
"I would work and take care of my kids and after they went to bed, I would work on the site until the middle of the night," he said. "It really was like another job."
Williams said sellers on the site control how much of their profits go towards a safe room fund.
"When you sell something on this website, you can designate how much of your profit goes to a safe room fund for the school of your choice. It can be from 1 percent of the sale to 100 percent," he said. "When you purchase something from the site, it tells you how much of your purchase went to a specific school."
The site features all kinds of items for sale, ranging from baby items, beauty products and cell phones to clothing, electronics, jewelry and sporting goods. Those who sell on the site must have a PayPal account and buyers can use their credit or debit card to check out. Buyers are not required to have a PayPal account, Williams said.
"The site also allows consumers to list their items in conjunction with Facebook groups while still generating money for safe rooms," he said.
"There are 55 Facebook groups in the Oklahoma City metro that are designed to buy and sell things and there are about 180,000 members that use these groups. These groups can generate between $5,000 and $10,000 a day."
Williams said all the money donated would stay in a fund specifically made for safe rooms. He said he is partnering with ‘Shelter Oklahoma Schools,’ a website that collects donations.
"They collect money for safe rooms and schools go to them when they are ready to apply for a grant to build safe rooms or shelters," he said.
"Any school in the state can see how much money was raised for them on our site and they will know that their money is at Shelter Oklahoma Schools."
Williams said there are problems when donating money to a school even with the intention of it helping with storm shelter construction or improvements.
"When you donate money to a school, even if the reason is for safe rooms or storm shelters, that money goes into a school’s general fund and some of that money could get lost in the mix," he said.
"All the funds generated from donating a percentage of your product on my new site will go to the school of your choosing. Schools that do not have, what that school considers, an adequate tornado shelter, will have the funds donated into a safe room specific fund monthly. Schools that do have adequate shelters will have the funds donated into that particular schools classroom fund monthly."
With over 1,700 schools in the state, Williams made sure no school was left out.
"You can donate your profits to any school in Oklahoma," he said. "The site will keep a tally in real time of how much money has been raised for each school."
The site charges a two percent fee when an item is purchased (0.2 cents for every dollar). The fee is charged on the items selling price minus shipping, then the donation percentage is deducted.
The fee is used for server maintenance, site upgrades and other things to keep the site running smoothly, Williams said.
Although the site is currently in its infancy, Williams says he hopes word spreads about the site.
"Parents should not have to worry if their kids are in a safe place at school in the event of a tornado," he said.