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First grade wins the penny war
by Mary Atkinson · January 02, 2014

West Liberty's first grade class won the top spot in the elementary school's first 'Penny War,' held Dec. 9-13. The total amount of money raised exceeded expectations.

Elementary students gathered in the gymnasium last Tuesday morning to honor the class for its work and to watch as a check for $1,094.75 was presented to Deb Lowman and Becky Vargas on behalf of the United Methodist Church for the district's 'Backpack Program'.

They were given an additional $100 cash from an anonymous donor, raising the overall total donation to $1,194.75. Fifth grade teachers Tonya Gingerich and Midge Jennings presented the check on behalf of the elementary school.

Gingerich said the amount was more than double what they expected to raise.

"We are so excited to be able to stand before you today to present an outstanding amount of money to a program that benefits our own students," Gingerich told the elementary students. "When Mrs. Jennings and I began discussing a service project idea, we met with Dr. Gardner to share some of our thoughts. We all agreed that the 'backpack program' was a service we wanted to support."

"After meeting, we also decided that the best way to help the program would be to ask our students to bring money and not food. This way the program could use the money in ways they found most useful," she added. "We also know that money is tight for most families, so we decided to start a penny war. We set an outrageous goal of $500 thinking that if we could raise $100 per class that would be phenomenal. We should have known you all would give us that 'Caring Comet' spirit and more than double our goal!"

The rules went like this: Each grade level had its own bucket to collect money. Each morning students could place pennies in their own bucket, however, silver coins and paper money were placed in another group's bucket, thus 'fueling' the competition.

Pennies counted positively towards a team's total, and silver coins and paper money counted against them by adding up points. The team with the most points would win, but the team with lowest points most likely raised the most money.

Pennies were 2 points, nickels - 5, dimes - 10, quarters - 25, and dollar bills - 100 points.

The 'Backpack Program' was started about five years ago when it was realized that some elementary students were not getting nutritious meals beside those served at the school.

Volunteers collect the food locally, then the food is put into backpacks on Fridays at the United Methodist Church and discreetly distributed by volunteers to the school and students needing the food for the weekend.

The food is nutritional, non-perishable and easy to prepare.

Gingerich said the school usually does an annual food drive for the pantry, but thought this year it would help the 'Backpack Program' by raising money.

"That way, they (volunteers) can make sure the food is nutritious and easy for the students to prepare at home," she said. "I think it's a really nice service that our community helps provide for our kids."

Since the event was successful, Gingerich said the school will consider doing it again next year.

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