Pete MacDonald, left, and Ian Thorpe are kicking off another Coins for Kids collection drive supporting the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive and Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Coins for Kids ready to roll for another season

Christmas charity campaign gets underway in Nanaimo

Two volunteers, who might just be Nanaimo’s most dedicated coin collectors, are about to hit the road in search of Coins for Kids.

The annual donation drive that started in 1996 as the News Bulletin’s Pennies for Presents before the penny was pulled out of circulation, is kicking off its 21st year of collecting cash for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island and the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive.

Pete MacDonald and Ian Thorpe will once again be out gathering and transporting heavy loads of hard currency.

MacDonald, now 67, got involved with the program to help his father, former Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief Tom MacDonald and his mother Wig. In nearly 20 years MacDonald has put in a load of work hauling heavy coins from collection points to deposit the donations in the Coins for Kids account at the Canada Trust branch in Terminal Park Plaza. One year MacDonald even survived a serious car accident while making a delivery run in bad weather and these days he and Thorpe are left with the task of sorting and rolling the coins before they’re deposited.

“They took away the machine from Canada Trust, which was a joy because we’d go in and play with that and jam it up and cause trouble and have a few laughs,” MacDonald said. “They took it away, though, so we’re stuck rolling it … it’s not a real hardship, rolling it.”

MacDonald said he keeps coming back year after year because he strongly believes in the roles Boys and Girls Club and the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive play in the community.

“I feel good doing it and I feel like I’m helping kids who really need it,” he said. “That’s the thing. There’s an article about 25 per cent [child] poverty that was in your paper’s last edition … there’s actually a lot of need out there … I like doing it and, of course, to carry on the tradition of the old man, you know.”

When Tom MacDonald could no longer lift the heavy coin collections, Ian Thorpe, a lifelong friend of Pete MacDonald, stepped in and is back putting his back into it again this year.

“I really like the fact that the proceeds are all spent locally here for two organizations, the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive and the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island, and the money’s used to buy gifts for children at Christmas, so it doesn’t get much better than that … I’m happy to help Peter MacDonald with it again. We talked about doing it and, yeah, I’m looking forward to it,” Thorpe said. “

Coins for Kids gets going in earnest in December, but MacDonald and Thorpe collect donations throughout the year from local companies that keep Coins for Kids collection jars near cash registers.

“We collect about $2,000 a year just from Quality Foods alone, “MacDonald said.

Overall donations have been down since the demise of the penny – Thorpe says people simply don’t carry as much coin around anymore – but in 2016 Coins for Kids still managed to raise about $5,000 and more than $170,000 since the coin drive started in 1996.

Donation jars are at the News Bulletin office, all three Quality Foods locations, John’s Bedroom Barn, Northridge Fitness, Lakeside Gardens Retirement Community, Nanaimo Seniors’ Village, Pleasant Valley School and École Quarterway School.



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