When you purchase a cup of coffee at one of the cafés in downtown Newton, you could be helping to save someone's life.

Although this isn't a connection most people normally make, sales tax dollars in Harvey County support local governments, which in turn support services such as police, fire and EMS.

It's a connection Pandea Smith of The Leaf Tea Lounge in Newton would like more people to start making. She's a part of the "Buy Harvey" program and its most recent awareness campaign, which is promoting the link between shopping local and government services.

"This is our latest initiative to better convey the importance of shopping local," Smith said. "That we want to bring it home, to show people that your buying decisions impact your community."

The Buy Harvey program started in the fall of 2011 and was inspired by Cinda Baxter, founder of the 3/50 Project. During a presentation at the Meridian Center in Newton, Baxter asked small business owners what would happen if people picked three locally-owned businesses each month and spent $50 at those businesses. A group of small local businesses started a grassroots movement called “Buy Harvey” that both urges consumers to shop local and encourages small businesses to work together to promote their services.

Smith said the idea for the group's latest initiative is based on a similar campaign in Phoenix, Ariz. They created a poster that features Newton firefighter Jamie Mott and the words "Local sales tax dollars help me do my job."

Bethel College student Audra Miller took the photo, and Patty Meier at Mojo's coffee shop in North Newton produced the poster.

In the future, the group hopes to make posters featuring other towns in Harvey County, as well as posters with other themes, such as EMS, law enforcement or libraries. Smith hopes the posters will help bring home the importance of service providers in Harvey County communities.

"These are our neighbors," Smith said. "Our sales tax dollars support our services, but also give employment for people in our community."

Smith believes the Buy Harvey program already has made an impact in the community. Sales tax revenue has gone up, and though Smith doesn't know if the Buy Harvey program can take credit for that increase, she said it is a positive sign.

"We think it has started raising awareness of the impact of supporting businesses in our community," she said.

About 30 to 50 people have been attending the monthly Buy Harvey breakfasts, and Smith would like to see even more members come on board. She said all small business owners are actually a part of Buy Harvey's "shop local" movement, simply by existing.

"Every independent business in Harvey County is a member — whether they know it or not," she said.