By Megan Rule | Staff Writer
The First National Bank of Central Texas exemplified support for local businesses this weekend by handing out cash vouchers and “mobbing” the recently opened Jubilee Food Market.
“It’s really all about us wanting to get the word out about how important it is to support local businesses,” said Dan Ingham, vice president of the First National Bank of Central Texas.
The “cash mob” took place at noon on Saturday, but people were lined up outside the Jubilee Food Market as early as 11 a.m. to ensure they could get a voucher. Ingham spoke to the crowd to go over how it would all work, with the Saturday-only voucher valued at $10.
First National Bank of Central Texas has done a few cash mobs already. Ingham said the bank picks a local business that it wants to support with cash, then picks a time to come and hand out vouchers that can be used to spend. The business will then bill the bank for the goods purchased with those vouchers. Saturday, the $10 vouchers were handed out at noon to the first 100 people in line at the market.
“We’re a locally-owned community bank so we want to promote locally-owned community business,” Ingham said. “It’s about spreading the word to support locally-owned businesses.”
The Jubilee Food Market is a grocery store on 15th Street in an area that was formerly a “food desert” because there were no grocery stores in the neighborhood. The market sells fresh produce at an affordable price, and it’s not the typical “junk food” that would be found at a convenience store or gas station. This market is an extension of the Mission Waco projects.
Ingham said the cash mob was planned ahead for a date that worked best for both the business and the company. Since the market is new, the event helped to get the word out about it, as it was advertised on the bank’s social media leading up to Saturday. Ingham said the turnout was awesome and they were honored to help with this infusion of cash and publicity.
“We’ll do small businesses, nonprofits, really anything we want to get behind,” Ingham said. “To get there early and to see people already lined up because there was a buzz about it, as a marketer, that made me excited.”
Darrell Wickert, manager of the Jubilee Food Market, said the market recently started accepting food stamps as a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Wickert also said sales have jumped quite a bit as a result, and looking at this past Sunday, sales were 45 percent higher than previous Sunday’s when the food stamps weren’t accepted. The market is open to anyone in the Waco community, not just residents of the nearby neighborhood, Wickert said.
“Anybody can shop here from anywhere in Waco,” Wickert said. “If they want to come, we can take them, and they can shop and get their groceries here. It’s not just for this food desert.”
Wickert said that there has been a lot of positive feedback so far from the Waco community, and every day people come in saying they are so thankful. Wickert said residents come in telling of cars that broke down and how thankful they are that they can just walk rather than pay for a ride or walk the nearly 2.5-mile distance to H-E-B. Wickert also said that all the publicity so far has been good, and the cash mob was definitely helpful as it increased traffic on Saturday.
“I’m so grateful for what the Lord has done, to bring food to this neighborhood where it wasn’t before,” Elizabeth Norwood, Waco resident, said. “I’m so pleased for everyone to be blessed and I am personally blessed to get to come here.”