Friday, December 14, 2007

Penny for Your Thoughts

The holidays--and recent flooding here in Washington state--make us all wonder what we can do to help. And for children, that question is an even more daunting. But the folks at the nonprofit Common Cents may have found a simple and easy solution to such a difficult question. And it's likely in your pants pockets, car ashtray or desk drawer.

The Penny Harvest was started by a four-year-old (yes, 4) and her father. In 1991, young Nora Gross asked her father how she could help feed a homeless man. Searching for the "right" answer to his daughter's question, Gross' father, Teddy, was inspired by a loose change bowl in their house. Fifteen years later, Common Cents and the Penny Harvest have helped schoolchildren find a way to improve things in their communities with the smallest gifts of change. Common Cents has developed Penny Harvest Kits that schools, school groups, individuals and communities can use to start their own projects. According to the site:
During the 05/06 school year, almost a half million children from 770 New York City schools took part in the Penny Harvest, collecting nearly 185 tons of pennies or $655,508.54. After months of research and study, more than 7,000 children sitting on 521 Philanthropy Roundtables made 1,283 monetary grants to non-profits, such as women’s shelters, animal rights organizations, community gardens and senior centers, and carried out 309 Neighborhood Service projects. Every penny collected goes back to the community.
Check out the current New York City Penny Harvest in Rockefeller Center, a collection of 100 million pennies that's as long and wide as a city block! There's also Penny Harvest Centers springing up in Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and right here in Washington state.

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