DANVILLE — Students at South View Middle School in Danville learned a lesson on how every penny counts.
From early November to Dec. 19, students collected pennies and other loose change for a penny drive to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. And on Friday, they presented an American Red Cross official with a check for $718.48, the amount collected.
"I thought that if we could raise $200, I would be happy," said special education teaching assistant Kate Drew, who organized the drive along with student council members and other teachers. "We're a low-income school, so we're amazed that our children raised this much money. It's just heartwarming."
Drew said students actually collected $618.48. When she took the change to First Financial Bank in Danville, the bank donated another $100 toward the effort.
Jamie Davis of the Red Cross was in tears when she accepted the check. She said the donation is timely as the organization is getting ready to put out another call for volunteers and donations to help communities that are still cleaning up and without power.
During the drive, 15 classrooms competed to bring in the most money.
"My kids were really excited about it," said Meghan Siwecki, whose eighth-grade homeroom class collected $248 and won a pizza party.
"They went through their pockets and looked under couch cushions for change. After talking to their parents, they looked in their cars or the bottom of their moms' purses. They brought in bags at a time," she continued, adding her students had filled a large coffee can and another container by the end of the drive.
When students found change out on the bus lot, they put it in a donation jar instead of pocketing it, school administration manager John Lubinski added.
Siwecki said she and fellow teachers used the disaster to teach students about empathy and helping others.
"I'd tell them, 'This is not about winning (the competition). I want you to think about helping the families.' And they did. Several of them said, 'If I were in their shoes, I would want someone to help me.'"