BY CAROL ROEHM
DANVILLE — South View Middle School students spent nearly two months collecting pennies to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy and their hard work paid off.
On Friday morning, the students presented a check for $719.24 to the American Red Cross of the Mid-Illinois Chapter.
“Across central Illinois, we have seen a show of compassion and help,” Kelly Formoso, branch manager of the American Red Cross of the Mid-Illinois Chapter, said in a press release. “People in our community have such big hearts, and when they see disasters like this, they want to help in anyway they can.”
In addition to helping raise money for the American Red Cross, the penny drive also became a teaching experience in which students learned valuable life lessons about empathy and helping those in need.
The penny drive, which started the first week of November, was an idea hatched by Kate Drew, a special education teaching assistant at South View.
The students were watching news clips of the storm damage for current events when Drew decided to have students collect pennies to help the victims.
Drew mentioned her idea to a couple of teachers, including eighth-grade AVID teacher Meghan Siwecki and health and PE teacher Staci Garrison, who also is the adviser for South View’s student council. They immediately jumped on board with the plan.
Drew said she’s unsure exactly how many classrooms at South View participated in the penny drive, but Siwecki’s eighth-graders collected the most money — $248 — which earned them a pizza party Friday.
“I still had pennies coming in from 15 classrooms on the last day of the drive, Dec. 18, the day before winter break,” Drew said.
The coins — not just pennies but also nickels, dimes and quarters — were collected and kept in coffee cans and glass jars.
Then Drew had to move all those coin containers to her car, which required some muscle.
“One jar I couldn’t lift,” she said. “It had to be 80 pounds.”
It took the staff at First Financial Bank more than an hour to count all the coins.
“I had containers all over the lobby,” Drew said.
First Financial also donated $100 to the students’ effort, making the grand total $719.24.
“It’s 100 percent earmarked for Hurricane Sandy,” Drew said. “I’m amazed by the kids. It warmed my heart.”