One thousand dollars is a lot in pennies. Especially if you have to roll a lot of them.
When we at the Alberni Valley News started our Pennies for Presents campaign in November, we set a goal of $1,000 to raise for a charity or organization that caters to children. We chose the Port Alberni Toy Run, which helps myriad local organizations and helps fund such events as Our Town, Starlight Movie Theatre in the summer, First Night, and of course holds its own Toy Run in September to collect toys for children at Christmas.
The Toy Run melds well with the whole point of Pennies for Presents. The campaign was started in 1996 by the late Frank Legh, a classified advertising consultant with Black Press. Frank, who always had a smile on his face everytime I saw him, launched the Island-wide campaign with the goal that no child should be left empty-handed on Christmas morning.
We decided to make Pennies for Presents a service project for our fifth anniversary here in Port Alberni.
Admittedly, we picked our goal out of the air. We had no idea what $1,000 of pennies would look like, or what it would take to deal with them. We are thankful—so extremely thankful—to Quality Foods for allowing us to use their coin roller, which has made the job go so much faster.
Heather and Linda took time out of their shifts to patiently explain how to use the machine (and how to put a bucket under it when I forgot to put coin paper in one of the tubes and the machine kept spitting out pennies), and set me up every time I came in.
Although I had heard how dirty money can be, especially coins, the concept was really brought to light for me this year.
The bucket full of pennies and other coins that West Coast General Hospital Foundation manager Pauline Richmond brought in garnered $77.40 of pennies and turned both my hands and the coin machine a powdery copper colour.
I had to pick through glass bits, rocks, grass, pet hair and lots and lots of pocket lint. I also have quite the collection of odds and sods that couldn’t be wrapped, like batteries, washers, screws, beads and buttons. Even a miniature copper kettle.
There were also pennies and pences from England, Euro cents, Austrian schillings, a New Zealand 10-cent coin, an ore coin from Norway, and pennies from Singapore and Taiwan. A 1964 Canadian nickel dollar. A washer from Suds City and a PGA club member golf ball marker. A stretched out penny from Disneyland.
We rolled $463 (and counting) in just pennies. The Bank of Montreal kindly took $274 in coin from the Port Alberni Association for Community Living and converted it to a cheque for the Toy Run, saving us the rolling time.
So far, we have collected more than $1,200—exceeding our goal. We appreciate every donation the public made, whether it was a few coins in the boxes that local retailers kept on their counters, or whether it was the plastic bag, can, treasure box or jar that people brought into the office to leave for us.
Kyla Devito, who brought in a glass peanut butter jar of coins, has already started collecting coins for next year’s campaign; she has persuaded six friends and family members to also begin collecting, so she will have even more to give next year.
In early December, Norm Butler brought in two purple reusable shopping bags full of pennies. They were left over from tag days that Norm’s team, the Alberni Valley Energizers, held to raise funds to take the team to Operation Trackshoes in Victoria.
Any leftover coins get put into a pot and donated to a community endeavour.
Norm usually donates his pennies to Jeneece Edroff of Victoria, who wanted to collect a million dollars’ worth of pennies for the Variety Show of Hearts Telethon. Her efforts turned into Jeneece Place, a home-away-from-home for children taking treatment at Victoria General Hospital.
Norm knows Jeneece, and supported her charity as well as that of Angel Magnussen of Port Alberni, who has also been collecting coins for the Variety Club. This year we are honoured that he decided to donate his coins to Pennies for Presents.
I teased Norm about having to roll all his pennies, trying to get a big smile out of him for a photo. That never fazed him, though: I had to mention the Vancouver Canucks, his favourite team, to get him beaming.
Well, I rolled every one of your pennies, Norm, all $55.75 of them. It took me 45 minutes with the coin machine; I even dropped a couple of dollars’ worth on the floor and had to re-count them and roll them by hand.
But it was worth it, and I smiled the whole time, just like you smiled when you brought them in. So, thanks.
Susan Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.