Henrico County VA
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Advantage Card to Offer Bonuses

Henrico County and several county business associations are partnering to create a new program that they hope will boost county businesses and save shoppers money while celebrating the county's quadricentennial celebration in 2011. The county and the Eastern Henrico Business Association, Lakeside Business Association and Henrico Business Leaders this week unveiled the Henrico Advantage Card (HAC) program, which will offer cardholders rewards when they make purchases at participating retailers.

The card is free and will be available at various retail locations throughout the county. Shoppers who show the card while making purchases at participating stores, restaurants and other businesses will receive "bonuses" for doing so – such as a discount on their purchases or a free gift, for example.

The participating businesses will determine what type of bonus to offer, and when to offer them, and all current offers will be displayed on the program's soon-to-be completed ed website – http://www.HenricoAdvantageCard.com.

The program is not expected to begin officially for several weeks, but organizers already are lining up corporate sponsors, whose advertisements will be featured on the website and weekly e-mail newsletters distributed to cardholders.

"The effort is all about buying and shopping locally," said Henrico County Finance Director John Vithoulkas, a member of the program's organizing committee. "We obviously want regional residents to spend money in Henrico. We've had conversations with some of our businesses about the concept, and the initial feedback has been extremely enthusiastic."

The concept for the program was hatched when Varina District Supervisor Jim Donati visited The Berkshires region of western Massachusetts, where many local businesses use a local paper currency called "Berkshares." That four-year-old program was designed to save shoppers money (they can purchase Berkshares for 95 cents on the dollar from local banks) and boost local spending (since only local merchants accept Berkshares).
"This local currency has gotten a lot of attention nationally," Vithoulkas said. "We thought about [currency]; we also thought about a local coupon that looks like [currency] – and what if we put local figures on it and tied it to the 400th anniversary?"

Ultimately, the organizing committee – which also includes EHBA president Mark Romers, Henrico Business Leaders founder Joe Winston and several other individuals – opted to create the Henrico Advantage Card as a simple way for retailers to offer their own unique specials to shoppers. An initial batch of 10,000 cards was printed last month, with subsequent printings expected as those cards are distributed.

The program is expected to continue through Dec. 31, 2011.

Once the program's website becomes active, shoppers can visit, submit their name and e-mail address and find out where to pick up a free card. They'll also be able to view all current participating businesses and their active offers and sort merchants by industry or region.

"It's designed so businesses can go in and and fairly easily put promotions and offers out to residents," Vithoulkas said.
BB&T already has signed up as a major program partner and will offer the cards for distribution at each branch location in Henrico County. Organizers expect to add several other major sponsors soon. Several sponsorship levels are available.

The program's expenses – design and operation of the website and the printing of cards and other materials for retailers – will be financed through the sponsorships. Retailers who merely want to participate in the program but do not wish to serve as sponsors will be able to do so by purchasing a basic "retail kit," which will permit a business to list its information on the website and receive identifying in-store materials to display for customers. The basic kit is expected to cost less than $100.

"I know of no other locality that has undertaken an effort like this," Vithoulkas said. "It's a unique partnership: the county provides time, expertise and seed money – less than $10,000 – and businesses [do the legwork]."

Businesses interested in participating in the program, or serving as distribution points or as sponsors, should call the Henrico Finance Department at 501-4995 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Editor's Note: Citizen Publisher Tom Lappas has been involved as a member of the organizing committee as a representative of the Lakeside Business Association.


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

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The Henrico Division of Police will host a free Community Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Western Government Center Complex, 4301 E. Parham Road. The event will… Full text

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