Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Penny Saved Makes Real Change

How many times have you walked past a penny on the ground? Most of us stopped seeing pennies, and even dimes, a long time ago figuring they aren't worth stopping for. We may have even the notion that prosperous people don’t need to stoop to pick up small change. But I do.

You see, a couple of years back my children wanted to help the homeless man who stood at a corner we drove by each day. One of them found a penny and said, "Let's give him this money."

Meanwhile, our neighbor, Lou, volunteers at our community food bank. I suggested we could give him the penny to take to the food bank. Next thing you know we were picking up all the coins we found and saving them in a little bank for “Lou's” food bank. New Year's Eve 2006 we counted out $8.47 to donate that we had collected during that year.

In 2007 we carried on our tradition of keeping all of our "found" money for the food bank. We picked up 101 pennies in parking lots, movie theaters, grocery stores, and airports. We found dusty nickels and dimes buried in gravel next to our car door. In one grocery store parking lot near the beach on a warm Saturday night, I found 3 quarters, 2 dimes and 8 pennies. On the corner near the bakery was 3 dimes, a nickel and five pennies. Then the mother-load, I found $15 in paper money.

I figured that find was, for sure, going to make it a good year. But surprisingly, the majority of the money we found this year came in coins picked up one at a time. In fact we stooped over 200 times to pick up a total of $34.11!

Now some people we know say that this isn't the same as the children giving their "own money" to the food bank. But I ask you when was the last time you gave $34.11 to end hunger? As far as I'm concerned, this was real money and not petty cash. Considering that the food bank can buy $9 worth of food for every dollar we donate, I figure we bought at least a week's worth of groceries for one family.

And funny thing is, this year my daughter and I found another five and ten dollar bill. When we look for it, the money keeps coming our way. So yet again, we’ll have a full bank at the end of the year and provide at least 30 more meals to hungry neighbors.

So next time you pass up a penny figuring it's not worth much and you don't really need it, consider that someone else does. After all, it doesn't cost you anything to pick it up and give it where it can do some good.