The Penny Harvest program began in 1991 from the simple, kind question of a little girl named Nora Gross: “Can we take him home?”
Nora was referring to a homeless man on the streets of New York City. Her compassion led to the first penny collection effort to benefit homeless shelters, and a nationwide movement was born. Through the program now called Penny Harvest, the effort grew to center around children doing good for others. Across the country children “harvest” small change (money) to create big change (action) by supporting local charities as well as participating in service projects within their communities.
We have been fortunate at Graland to participate in Penny Harvest since 2006 when Cecilia Coates, a second grade teacher, brought the program to our community. It has grown each year in participation of leaders and contributions from the entire school.
As a coach of the Penny Harvest I have seen students use their voices and show tremendous courage when speaking about a topic that has deep meaning to them. They take charge to find organizations that meet the needs of our community and show eloquence in speaking with the board members and visitors from these organizations. Student leaders have raised up to $6,000 in our largest collection and distributed those monies to a variety of charities. They have run book drives, organized benefit races and volunteered at local animal rescue centers. All the leaders that I have had the privilege to work with at Graland Country Day School have shown what power a group of children can have in making big change with something as small as a penny.
My involvement as a Penny Harvest coach had a profound impact on my family when my son Douglas began seeing the importance of doing for others. On our daily drive home there was a homeless man named Ben who we would talk with during our wait at the stoplight. Douglas soon started giving Ben his leftover snack and eventually we began bringing Ben a sandwich. As Douglas got older we watched his caring continue, and on his seventh birthday he asked that we donate all of his presents to patients at the Children’s Hospital. This has become an annual tradition for Douglas’ birthday and we couldn’t be prouder of his selfless acts.
Penny Harvest does more than collect money for charity. It empowers children to see their role in changing their communities for the better. As Graland students wrap up the collection phase of the program in November and move into the grantmaking phase, they will have the opportunity to interview and evaluate a variety of organizations and finally make decisions on awarding the monies raised. It is an exercise in compassion, leadership and philanthropy that sets them up for a lifetime of giving and serving. Thank you for supporting Penny Harvest and our fantastic student leaders this year!
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.