Pounds of pennies donated by children to help flood victims

When a local Red Cross representative was recently told by six LDS children and two adults that they wanted to make a donation to flood victims in the Midwest, she must have thought it logical to offer a glass jar in which to put the money. She was in for a big surprise.

Valerie Phillips, who helped the children collect the money, told the representative, "We're going to need some help because we have 327 pounds of pennies.""Her eyes got so big," she said of the representative. "Her husband got a dolly. He helped bring in the sacks of pennies."

The donation - given during a local Red Cross fund-raising breakfast Sept. 11 - was the result of nearly a month of effort by the six children living in the Oakridge 5th Ward, Farmington Utah Stake. Karen Taylor, 11; Nick Hawkins, 11; Jinaya Gruninger, 11; Mike Godfrey, 12; and Sister Phillips' two oldest sons, Jess, 8; and Eric, 5; decided on their own initiative to collect money for flood victims. They enlisted the help of Sister Phillips and her husband, Kim, and they went door-to-door collecting pennies. In addition, the children also headed fund-raising efforts at a local elementary school. Their total donation was about 50,000 pennies for a total of about $500, plus $82 in silver coins and paper bills.

"It made me feel good to know the children really wanted to help," Sister Phillips told the Church News. "It's nice to want to help others, but the children learned about organizing and following through on something."

The project began in August when Brother and Sister Phillips, who are Merrie Miss/Blazer B Primary teachers, taught a joint lesson on generosity. During the lesson, Sister Phillips mentioned that the local Red Cross chapter was requesting that people bring in their pennies to donate to flood victims.

The children more than listened.

"After Church was over, Nick was at our door with the first bag of pennies. He said, `I have the first donation. Let's go!' "

The young man had collected the pennies at home - and the service project began. Karen made fliers on her family's computer announcing the penny drive and included on the fliers a goal of raising 100 pounds of pennies - a goal they far exceeded. Brother and Sisters Phillips helped the children distribute the fliers throughout neighborhoods in Kaysville. They then began going door-to-door.

"Some people gave a few coins that were clinking around the bottom of their purses," Sister Phillips said. "Others gave entire jars of pennies sitting on their dressers gathering dust. Some gathered up the handful of spare change found at the bottom of the clothes washer."

About a week after the project began, Sister Phillips spoke with the principal of the local elementary school in Farmington, adjacent to Kaysville, and received permission to involve students and their parents in the penny drive.

"One by one, hundreds of students emptied out their piggy banks and parents sent in their spare change," Sister Phillips related. "In the school's office, a five-gallon bucket became weighed down with 126 pounds of pennies during the first week."

Although the total donation was a "drop in the bucket" compared to the needs of flood victims, said Sister Phillips, the Red Cross was impressed with the selflessness of the children. At the Sept. 11 breakfast, the children's efforts were announced over a loudspeaker to other guests.

Mark Branz, the local Red Cross volunteer who was chairman of the pennies drive committee, told the Church News: "I was really impressed with the children's drive and motivation. They are to be commended for their efforts."

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