Written by: John DeRousie, Custom Marketing Solutions
OSWEGO, NY – For many, a penny is just a penny, a one-cent piece that can buy little or nothing.
They are tossed in a jar, left in a car’s change drawer or placed in a change cup at a store checkout without hesitation.
However, for one local high school student, a penny is something that will put food on the table for a hungry family.
Christie Hoefer, a senior at Oswego High School, has seen firsthand the large number of families in Oswego County who depend on food pantries for their meals. Having volunteered at Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s fresh food distributions and helping her mother, Helen Hoefer, director of Emergency Services at Catholic Charities, in the food pantry, she noticed that the amount of families using the pantry was increasing each month and decided that she had to do something to help. She wanted to make a difference in her community. That’s when she thought, why not put all those unwanted pennies to good use.
“When my mom told me that she can purchase a pound of food from the Food Bank of Central New York for only 14 cents I thought, that’s only a few pennies. Imagine how much food she could purchase for the food pantry if I could collect one million pennies,” said Christie.
With her goal in mind, Christie began her quest by announcing to her family that she wanted to collect one million pennies and donate the funds to Catholic Charities’ food pantry. Christie’s grandfather helped her started by donating over 10,000 pennies and her parents donated another 2,350. With her Pennies 4 Pantries campaign officially under way, Christie has been reaching out to area businesses and organizations and has placed Pennies 4 Pantries collection cans throughout Oswego and Fulton so that community members can easily donate their pennies. Additionally, Christie will be on-site at various businesses to visit with community members and accept donations.
“When I help my mom at the food pantry it makes me sad to see families with small children and even kids my age come in for food because they have nowhere else to turn. It is their last resort for food. The Pennies 4 Pantries campaign is an opportunity for me to make a difference and do my part to help others in my community,” said Christie.
According to Helen Hoefer, Catholic Charities’ food pantry has seen approximately a 30% increase in use over last year’s numbers, which were significantly higher than the previous year. “The demand never seems to level off, it is increasing almost monthly,” she said.
Hoefer, who is understandably proud of her daughter’s efforts, noted that quite often it is the youth of the community who are the most eager to help. “We have had several young people show concern for others by helping us with fundraisers such as can drives and food drives. We have even had some bring in fresh produce that they had grown in their garden. When young people notice that their peers are in need of something they often take fore granted, like having enough to eat, it can be difficult for them to accept. They empathize with them and truly want to help them,” she said.
Christie, who is looking to reach her goal by July of 2012, said that whatever amount she has collected through November will be distributed to Catholic Charities’ food pantry to help them provide holiday meals to families in need.
While her goal is a lofty one, Christie is enthusiastic about her chances to achieve it. “I know it won’t be easy, but if we can all come together and donate only a few pennies whenever we can, I know we can do it. Pennies 4 Pantries is more than just my campaign to collect one million pennies. It is an opportunity for individuals, businesses, and organizations to come together as a community to help feed families in need,” she said.
“I’m proud of her,” added Christie’s dad, Dan Hoefer. “Hopefully she will reach her goal and inspire others to lend their support to help food pantries feed as many families as possible.”
In addition to placing donations in the Pennies 4 Pantries collection cans, those interested in donating pennies may contact Christie Hoefer at 315-342-4373; requests for pickups will also be accommodated. While the goal is one million pennies, Christine added that donations of any size would gladly be accepted.