"A penny saved is a penny earned," attributed to Benjamin Franklin, is considered an admonition to save your money. Students at schools in Traverse City and Benzie County learned that giving your spare change to a good cause results in more rewards than hanging on to your money.
Sixth-grade student Ryan Sass at Platte River Elementary School was looking for a way to help classmate Robert "Robbie" Stewart, whose family lost their home in a fire, and organized a "Penny War."
In a "Penny War," a penny counts as a positive point. Silver coins or bills subtract from the positive penny point total. For a classroom to "win," they drop silver coins and bills into competing classroom containers.
"The end result is a nice healthy donation to support a classmate who has gone through a pretty devastating experience ... and a lot of coins to count," wrote Kim O'Connor, Title One teacher first-fith grade/general education teacher fourth/fifth grade at Platte Elementary School.
Kim wrote that it took four sixth-grade students more than two hours to sort the coins. Kim took the money to the Lake Ann Branch of Honor State Bank to be counted and the students learned that they collected $854.82. Not bad for 120 sixth graders.
"Considering the huge amount of coins collected, we were thrilled (the bank) could do this counting for us," Kim said. "It was a group effort at the bank and took them the entire day (and then some) between serving customers inside the bank and trying to complete (our) task. The whole effort was led by Kristin Buchholz and we are most appreciative to the entire Honor State Bank staff!"
The classroom with the most points after the pennies were added and coins and bills subtracted was Dave Grimes' class, who enjoyed an Ice Cream Reward Party to celebrate their win.
"The camaraderie of the students pulling together for Robbie has been heartwarming," Kim said. "Ryan is to be commended for his leadership role in finding a way to help his classmates channel their energies to help a fellow classmate. I believe this type of community service experience is one that these kids will take with them beyond their years at Platte River. These kids are our future leaders ... and I am so proud of their efforts to rally together to support a friend."
Meanwhile, the kindergarten classes at Westwoods Elementary School held a "Penny War" with the help of United Way. Students learned how United Way helps the community collect funds from individuals and then grants that money to local nonprofit organizations.
After collecting money, each classroom decided which nonprofit they wanted to help, creating their own mini-grant cycle. After careful consideration, three classrooms decided to donate their money, a total of $329.46, to the Cherryland Humane Society and the fourth class donated their funds, $84.89, to the Women's Resource Center.
"United Way is proud of all of the excitement and enthusiasm that these four kindergarten classrooms put toward their Penny War," said Michelle Gallagher, marketing coordinator for United Way of Northwest Michigan. "All of these students have learned a tremendous lesson about giving."