Pennies for PCs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Last year, students at Chelsea Elementary School figured out that pennies, when you’ve got a whole bunch of ’em, can pay for new computers.

They have since learned to accept the pennies offered for their thoughts, to make their wishes without paying the fountain, to let porcelain pigs go hungry.

During the month of February, while debate grew over a proposed property tax increase to fund Shelby County schools, hundreds of little penny-pinchers were hitting the streets … and the couch.

They scoured sidewalks and rummaged through junk drawers.

They picked through potato chips and candy wrappers while digging through the cushions of their couch.

Some of them even braved the contents of their mother’s purse in search of an overlooked penny, stuck, perhaps, to the side of a half-wrapped peppermint.

And finally, when the last little pockets were relieved of their heavy loads, the kindergartners through fifth graders at Chelsea Elementary had raised more than $1,700, all in pennies, to fund the purchase of two new Gateway computers.

The efforts were part of a program created by instructional aide Tammy Fancher. As technology coordinator at Chelsea Elementary School, Fancher started &uot;Pennies for PCs&uot; last year to raise money for new computers in the school’s lab.

&uot;If everyone keeps their pennies, they’re not worth a lot,&uot; she said. &uot;But if we put them together, they are.&uot;

Fancher directs the lab that serves grades 2-5, with kindergartners and first-graders welcomed as time allows.

Once a week for 45 minutes, the students are taught keyboarding, word processing and programs like PowerPoint, Excel and Publisher.

They are familiarized with the Internet, web pages and equipment such as digital cameras, scanners and printers.

&uot;We try to be cutting edge,&uot; said Dr. Bill Naugher Jr., principal of Chelsea Elementary. &uot;We hope when the state’s requirements come out next year, we’ll be ahead of the game.&uot;

New computers weren’t the only motivation for the students to collect the oft-neglected coins.

Students in the grade collecting the most pennies was promised extra time to play on the inflatables at the school’s spring Field Day.

Fancher kept separate jugs, donated by Culligan Water, so each grade could see their progress as the pennies came pouring in.

The fourth grade won the contest for the second year in a row,

edging out the second grade by a margin of less than $30.

Fancher accepted other forms of currency during the fundraiser, however, only pennies counted toward the total for each grade.

&uot;I even had some parents take $30 to the bank to get $30 worth of pennies,&uot; Fancher said.

She said the fundraiser offered a unique way to raise money opposed to the often-used method of selling coupon books.

&uot;This is such an easy way to collect money that the parents really don’t mind,&uot; Fancher said. &uot;It doesn’t require much effort on anyone’s part, because we all have pennies.&uot;

Fancher said she was concerned the children might have a tougher time raising as many pennies during the early stages of this year’s contest, thinking they had &uot;tapped out local resources.&uot;

Many of the students had convinced those who had been saving pennies for years to donate them last year, she said.

But Abraham Lincoln apparently remains well-represented in the Chelsea area. The students were able to round up more than 170,000 pennies this February.

They raised $1,678 in pennies last year.

Fancher said she plans to continue the program next year as well.

Faced with the task of counting the coins, however, she said she may have to find another way to tally up the total.

&uot;I started off counting them two at a time,&uot; Fancher said. &uot;Then I got a device to count them 50 at a time. Needless to say, it was a very long weekend.&uot;