The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor is getting smarter about giving out college scholarships to local high school grads. “We used to just present them with a check,” says past president Harry Cross. “We hoped it was going to higher education, but who knows?

“So in 2011 we started requiring proof of enrollment,” Cross adds. “But then we discovered that many schools would just deduct from other financial aid whatever we gave them–so the net benefit to the student was zero, and what we were doing was subsidizing the institution.”

Instead, the club is now directing its entire scholarship budget–$72,000–to Washtenaw Community College. The school “assured us [the recipients] wouldn’t be penalized in terms of other aid,” Cross says. And at just $3,500 to cover a student’s tuition, fees, and books, for a full year, “it’s an awful lot of bang for the buck.”

Members donated most of the funds in response to a challenge grant from the Cross family foundation, but $18,000 comes from the club’s used-goods sales at its new headquarters in Scio Township. Cross fought the decision to leave downtown, but he says the new facility brought them “a new clientele in terms of donation and buyers from outlying areas.”

In its last year downtown, Cross says, the three-hour Saturday sale “was averaging probably $7,000 to $8,000 per week.” Now with two four-hour sales (9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday and Saturday), “we’re doing $20,000, and we’ve hit $25,000.” The club closed its fiscal year at the end of September with gross receipts of more than $1 million–an all-time record.