Holmes slams home its annual ‘Penny Wars’ fundraiser

       Hard times seem to affect just about everyone - givers as well as recipients.

During sixth-grade lunch at the finale of Holmes MIddle School's annual "Penny Wars" Nov. 4... Jo Wilson, a teacher in the Castle Peak core, leads her students in adding pennies to their pile and "slamming" other cores with higher denominations
Westside Pioneer photo

       Holmes Middle School found this out in its annual Penny Drive, which concluded Nov. 4.
       The colorful fundraising campaign - it's also called the “Penny Wars” because of its competitive format - is somewhat unique because it's targeted just for the school: The money is donated by Holmes students and staffers to help classmates from financially struggling families to have a good Thanksgiving and, if any funds are left over, Christmas too.
       This year “only” $2,007 was raised in the week that the school dedicates for that purpose, according to Lori Kadzikowski. As student services coordinator, she is part of the school counseling staff, which leads the organizing of the annual event. She noted that two years ago, the Penny Drive raised a whopping $3,600.
       “It's a reflection of the economic times we're in,” she said. “But it's still a lot of money to bring in, and it'll help some people.”
       The money gets turned into gift cards. Forty families got a Thanksgiving hand last year. Adding to the mix, teachers generally donate a couple of dozen turkeys. “It's a Westside community thing,” Kadzikowski said.
       Those needing help are asked to let the school know. Typically, they're from the families of students on free and reduced lunch (35 percent of the school). But Penny Drive statistics show that only about 10 percent of the school families ask for assistance. “So nobody's 'taking advantage' of this,” she concluded.
       School Principal Rob Utter observed that “the kids save their pennies, sometimes all year long. They know this is coming up.”
       According to Wikipedia, a penny war is a popular international fundraiser. The competition stems from the combative rules of the game. The way it works at Holmes, students in the educational “cores” in each of the grade levels are encouraged to add pennies to their cores' total piles. However, one core can easily “slam” another core by putting higher coin values or even paperback money onto its pile. Under the rules, these donations are counted as deductions from the core's penny total. So in the end, Kadzikowski explained, the winner usually will have “negative” numbers… which is OK with everyone, because the slamming means more donations overall.

During sixth-grade lunch at the finale of Holmes MIddle School's annual "Penny Wars" Nov. 4... Josh Tomberlin, a teacher in the Pyramid Peak core, wheels in a cart with his students. Beneath the cloth were stacks of enough penny rolls to ensure a Pyramid victory. Schoolwide, Holmes raised $2,007 to improve Thanksgiving for classmates whose families are struggling economically.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The final day of this year's drive concluded during lunch in the cafeteria Nov. 4. The sixth grade lunch had some drama. The Castle Peak core's students, fired up by teacher Jo Wilson, charged to the front with loads of pennies and slamming cash. But they were topped by the Pyramid Peak core. Followed by cheering students, teachers Josh Tomberlin and Kylene Riggen wheeled in a cart with numerous penny rolls stacked in (what else?) a pyramid.
       But in the end, Kadzikowski said, it was the eighth grade that had the most pennies ($420 worth). Still, the sixth grade (aided by all the slamming) “brought in the most money overall.”

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