The News Bulletin’s Pennies for Presents fundraising drive relied on volunteers to pick up and deliver donated coins to more volunteers who counted and rolled the copper.
Times have changed; the penny has been pulled from circulation, the drive is now called Coins for Kids, but fundamentals of the program have stayed the same. Volunteers continue to pull their weight for the cause of raising cash to buy Christmas presents for children from Nanaimo’s underprivileged families and stock the shelves of local food banks.
Pete MacDonald and Ian Thorpe have been friends since they were young and have had long-standing association with the News Bulletin.
MacDonald says he can’t remember when he started helping his dad Tom with the campaign in its early days, but after the heavy lifting got to be too much for his father, MacDonald just carried on.
MacDonald’s parents, Tom and Wig, now both 87, continued on with the tedious task of rolling all the larger denominations and left penny rolling to residents at Berwick on the Lake retirement community. The demise of the penny means Berwick residents will sort and roll all denominations from here on.
Coins for Kids supports three charities in Nanaimo – the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club and the Salvation Army. Since its inception in 1996, the annual campaign raised more than $160,000 in Nanaimo alone – Black Press’s Island newspapers also participate in coin drives.
Picking up and delivering coins has its challenges. “The hardest part is the snow and the weather and the deadlines to try and get stuff in on time,” MacDonald said.
But MacDonald says he believes in the cause and the dedication is there. Even a head-on collision that totalled his van while delivering rolled coins several years ago hasn’t dissuaded him.
Thorpe has been a columnist for the paper for several years and pens a Christmas poem each holiday season, too. “I knew [Pete] was involved in this Pennies for Presents, so I talked to him one day and offered to help,” Thorpe said. “It seemed like a good cause and because I knew him I thought it would be fun to hang out with him and help him – and it has been a lot of fun.”
Thorpe said for him volunteering for Coins for Kids is highly rewarding for not a huge commitment.
“I’m really impressed with the program,” Thorpe said. “The people at Berwick who volunteer to do the rolling of the money and the people at TD Bank are extremely friendly, so we just do our part and it’s not a huge commitment and it’s very rewarding.”
The toughest part of the campaign is the physical effort of lifting and carrying containers of heavy coins, but Thorpe said he hopes the larger coin denominations mean the campaign will raise more money than ever before.
Coins can be dropped off at InPrint, John’s Bedroom Barn, Northridge Fitness, Canadian Tire, Sink or Swim Scuba, La-Z-Boy, Royal LePage at Brooks Landing, Coast Realty Downtown, ICBC Driver Licensing Centre, Cline Medical Centre and Quality Foods in University Village, or the News Bulletin, 777 Poplar St.
The campaign wraps up Dec. 19.