Pupils collect, donate pennies to make change for the better


November 13, 2001|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IMAGINE A stack of pennies nearly as high as the tallest edifice on the Baltimore skyline. That will give you an idea of how many pennies were collected by pupils at Phelps Luck Elementary School during their "Kids Helping Kids Penny Drive for UNICEF" campaign last month.

The penny drive, which yielded nearly $1,000, was only a portion of the funds that the children collected to help needy children of the world. They also went trick-or-treating for UNICEF and ended up with nearly $3,000 in change to donate to the international fund.

"You ought to feel very, very good," Christine Sarbanes, chairwoman of the Baltimore chapter of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, told the youngsters at a school assembly Nov. 6.

Sarbanes, wife of U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, described the significance of the donation to the children.

"Every 10 cents that you've collected means that a child in the world will live instead of die," she said, explaining that the United Nations International Children's Fund, or UNICEF, will use the donations to purchase and distribute food, clothing, blankets and vaccines to poor children - particularly in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

"You are going to save so many lives," she told them.

The UNICEF delegation had a decidedly international flair. In addition to Christine Sarbanes' soft British accent - she hails from Brighton, England - two of the five visiting UNICEF volunteers, Korean-born Julie Lee and Indian-born Lulu Khan, dressed in colorful traditional garb of their native lands.

Officials estimate that 23 nations are represented among the 590 children enrolled at Phelps Luck. That, Sarbanes pointed out, makes it "the perfect school" for multicultural awareness.

But such lofty notions were not the impetus for the UNICEF collection. Rather, it started with Catriona Moody, a Phelps Luck fifth-grader who wanted to do something different for Halloween.

"I didn't want to trick-or-treat for candy this year," Catriona said. She decided to trick-or-treat for UNICEF donations instead. Her mother, Lindsey Panton, supported the sugar-free alternative and helped her daughter introduce the idea to the whole school.

They started with a penny drive called "Pennies for Polio," followed by the Halloween change collection. In all, mother and daughter hoped to raise about $600 for the charity, said Phyllis Lamiano, Panton's neighbor. She and her son Ian, a fifth-grader, helped get the program organized, along with fifth-grade instructional assistant Krista Wheatley-Heckman and her children, Shobha, a second-grader, and Jeffrey, a fourth-grader, and Catriona's third-grade brother, Alastair.

"It was driven by the children," Panton said. "We knew it would work. We had no idea how well."

At the assembly, the children presented Sarbanes with a oversized cardboard check check for $2,645.01. The actual check, which included extra money from change that continued to trickle in, was for $2,665.97. "Pennies don't seem to be much, but they really add up," said Principal John Morningstar.

Tiptoeing through tulips

The last of the die-hard leaves are still clinging to trees, but a group of Brownies is already looking forward to spring. The young Girl Scouts spent a recent Saturday afternoon in front of Jeffers Hill Elementary School planting dozens of tulip bulbs that should sprout in about five months.

Home Depot in Columbia donated the bulbs to members of Brownie Troop 2330, who planted them in order to receive their community service badge, said Annette Rodriquez, troop leader.

"They worked very well together," she said.

Participants were Tyler Lacey, Taylor Bradford, Mariah Graham, Alana Battle, Antonia Hernandez and Allyse Hemler.

Several mothers assisted the girls: Trina Lacey, Sophy Bradford, Brenda Battle, Maria Hernandez and Wendy Ormont, who helped organize the activity.

Watch this spring to see the fruits - or rather, flowers - of their labor.

PFLAG meeting

The local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians And Gays) will hold a program called "Gays, Religion and Spirituality" at 7:30 p.m. today at Owen Brown Interfaith Center.

Clerics and representatives of Jewish, Episcopalian, Catholic and Unity faiths will be on hand to discuss issues such as social justice and share views on the interpretation of Bible lessons. Also, separate confidential rooms will be open for teens and for parents who are new to the group.

PFLAG meets monthly, and meetings are free of charge.

Information: Colette Roberts, 410-290-8292, or by e-mail at robertscp@aol.com.

Parting words

This section of the column could be called "Departing words" this week, as I am leaving my position as east Columbia correspondent. But I'm not going far - just to Fridays, as the Neighbors columnist for my community, North Laurel-Savage. Your new correspondent will be east Columbia resident Dana Klosner-Wehner.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to write about such a vibrant, interesting community as east Columbia, and I am thankful for the many people who graciously shared their time, their thoughts and their stories with me.

East Columbia is full of good neighbors. Thank you for being a good neighbor to me.

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