Bright Ideas Celebrates 20 Years

by May 22, 2016Nonprofits, North Brunswick

In 2014 North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are celebrating 20 years of supporting teachers and enhancing projects in classrooms through the Bright Ideas Grants program. Bright Ideas Grants provide funding to school teachers for innovative classroom projects that fall outside of normal funding parameters.

2011 BI grant – Virginia Williamson Elementary Teacher Tara Cumbee’s 3rd grade class created a “Dream Green Garden” for studying pollination and plant life cycles. 2nd graders also used the garden and outdoor classroom for studying animal life and caterpillers to butterflies. 5th graders also benefitted from the grant by setting up composting stations and planting vegetables.

This unique grant project began in the early 1990s as the idea of Brunswick EMC employee Judy Gore of Shallotte. Gore met a teacher in K-Mart who was using her own money to buy materials for a class project. Gore and her colleagues at BEMC created the program, which started with the name “Partnerships for Solutions” in 1993.

The rest of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives immediately recognized the value in what Brunswick EMC was doing for local teachers, and in August of 1994 the statewide Bright Ideas education grant program was born.

“We’re especially proud of the impact of the Bright Ideas grant program, which has received national recognition,” said Robert W. “Chip” Leavitt, Jr., CEO and general manager of Brunswick EMC. “Bright Ideas has been a success from day one and is the cornerstone of our commitment to community. What started as a couple of $250 mini-grants has turned into very necessary financial support for teachers and schools who are in increasing need. Bright Ideas has grown to a statewide program awarding more than $9 million and impacting more than 1.5 million students, and it’s still growing. That’s quite a legacy from Judy Gore’s initiative, and we’re looking forward to the 20th anniversary in 2014.”

Gore says never imagined her mini-grant program would grow to have such an important impact in North Carolina and beyond. “We were just trying to do what was right, and I don’t think we could have found a better program,” she says.

Teachers can apply for Bright Ideas grants of up to $2,000 through September. For more information, visit

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