Penny Harvest is an inspiring youth philanthropy project with roots in New York City and Seattle schools. It began 16 years ago in NYC. Since that time, children have raised over five million dollars in pennies to fund social change organizations and projects that they care about.
For two years, I have volunteered in three of the four public schools here and dreamed of starting a Penny Harvest here. Over 20 percent of the town lives below the federal poverty line, and we are situated in the second poorest county in Ohio. The children are wonderful and enthusiastic. We did a trial run in the upper elementary school, and students raised $742.75 in pennies that came straight from their neighborhoods. Right now, they are in the phase of researching social problems in the area, interviewing directors of area non-profits, and awarding grants to projects of their choice. The special aspect of Penny Harvest is that the children make all the decisions. These are children nine to twelve years of age engaging in real grassroots philanthropy advocating for social change.
And what are the results for children? Empowerment is one way of putting it. In a survey of 208 teacher coaches, 100 percent said that participation in Penny Harvest increases self-worth and understanding of others. Close to 100 percent agreed that children learned how to be leaders in their communities and that they can make a difference.
The operating costs for Penny Harvest are $1,500 per school. Two elementary schools and one middle school have signed on for Penny Harvest in 2008, which leaves this project in need of $4,500. Grants cover such operating costs as materials, tech support, and a paid staff member from the national non-profit who guides the program. Materials include: cloth sacks and paper bags for collection, teacher’s guide book, penny pins, stickers, posters, sign, and a DVD and yearbook of the program for all participating schools. A grant of $500 will cover materials and support for eight classrooms.