Penny Power Project - or: We are a Family
Initiative of the Dominican Republic Mission Circle
(Ann Dentice) Since 1994, penny banks filled by about 500 Americans from all over the United States have helped the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary to serve the poor in the Dominican Republic, specially in the Nutrition Center, building shelters for families, and education of the youth. In the Jubilee year 2000 the year’s total contributions exceeded $14.000. The Schoenstatt Mothers, Single Professionals, and couples of the board don't only intend to raise funds; they also aim to create an awareness of being a family, responsible for each other and called to act.
It was a visit to the Schoenstatt Sisters in the Dominican Republic that brought about the Penny Power Project. Witnessing the plight of the poor in the little town of LaVictoria and the untiring dedication of the Schoenstatt Sisters in caring for them, caused the American Schoenstatt members to ask the question, "How can we help them?" The first step was to form a Dominican Republic mission circle. The committee members come from Schoenstatt Mothers, Single Professionals, Couples and a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary.
Next they sought ideas of how to raise funds. Rummage sales and penny banks were decided on. The rummage sales we held were very successful but became an overwhelming effort. So the missions circle’s main focus became the penny banks.
Penny Banks - ambassadors of Love and Good Will, Symbols of the Faith in Divine Providence
"I keep my mission penny bank on a small table which is placed directly beneath my home shrine," shares Barbara Hasler, from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. "Each morning my husband Ralph visits our home shrine to say his morning prayers. Here he can "lighten his load" in two ways. First he can put his cares into our Lady's hands and ask God for strength to get him through the day. Secondly he can physically lighten his load by dropping his excess pocket change into the penny bank. I am amazed at how much good those pennies do and how much they are appreciated. When I drop my coins into the bank I say a ‘Hail Mary’ with each entry. If the pennies can accomplish so much good, think of what the extra prayers can achieve for our friends in the Dominican Republic. This makes those little banks more than just another donation. They become ambassadors of love and good will as well as symbols of our faith in Divine Providence."
In 1994 the first penny banks were distributed. A person takes a bank, fills it in whatever time is necessary, and then turns it in for an empty bank. It was decided to ask only for pennies, as they are considered almost worthless to many Americans. Therefore donating to the mission would not be too burdensome. Penny Power Project has grown surely and steadily.
Many people have taken the penny banks to heart and the annual donations have increased every year. The first year’s total of $551 was thought to be remarkable. That’s a lot of pennies! Many banks included other coins too and in the Jubilee year 2000 the year’s total contributions exceeded $14.000. "It is our hope," say the initiators, " that this project will unite us with our brothers and sisters, that we will grow closer together as the family of God."
Hurricane Georges and the Penny Power Solidarity
On September 28, 1998, the impact of hurricane Goerges on the Dominican Republic meant: At least 210 people reported dead, dozens missing. About 100,000 homeless. Seventy percent of bridges damaged, 90 percent of banana and other plantations destroyed. Damages estimated at over $1 billion.
Ann Dentice: "When news of the terrible devastation in the Dominican Republic reached us, my thought was to send some money to help alleviate the suffering of the people. While thinking about their sad situation, the inspiration came to mind, 'There are over 250 Penny Power People who would surely want to help if they knew how badly they were needed; and with the newsletter mailing list we had the means to contact them'. The next 5 hours were very productive to say the least. Not too many people were available on a Friday at 4:00 PM. My daughter Kathy Easter could only deliver two of her younger children to help with the mailing, 11 year old Becky and 9 year old Mary Elizabeth. While Sister Marihedwig and I composed the emergency appeal letter by phone, the girls applied the address labels and return address to the envelopes. Usually it takes me over an hour to print the labels off the computer (most of my computer work is press the mouse and see what happens). This time -one shot- labels done! Next it's off to Office Depot to have the letter copied -no one waiting in line- less than 15 minutes, copies made and we're on our way to the Post Office for stamps."
"I am doing this with a good heart!"
"Now we fold and stuff and seal. The girls were real troopers. After several attempts to properly use the sealing sponge, Mary announced she would just lick all the envelopes! When I asked the girls if they were tired of the monotonous work, Becky said with such simplicity, 'No, I am doing this with a 'good heart'. We drove to the downtown post office and mailed the appeals at 9:00 PM, in time for the last pick-up. On Saturday some received the appeal and that same day people were delivering checks to the Sisters. "I am doing this with a 'good' heart".
The response has been tremendous! $13,030.98 had been donated as of October 31st.
Penny Power People in 21 States
The periodic mission newsletter is now mailed to over 500 Penny Power People in 21 States! The membership includes people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths. Steve, Mike, and Matt Kress faithfully drop their pennies in the banks that their grandparents, Dick & Mary Ann gave them. Some of the Penny Power people organize extra donations, for example in Lent, on their birthday or anniversaries.
Sister Marihedwig was busy with her work of emptying the penny banks into the coffee cans to take them to the bank for counting. One bank seemed to be extremely light. This was not too unusual as now and then people will drop in paper money instead of the pennies. Upon opening the bank Sister did indeed find paper money -10 bills to be exact- ten $100 bills! No name, no note, just $1,000 in cash! "Whoever you are, mystery penny power person, our sincere thanks and gratitude!"
"Please send us more banks..."
Brigitte Allen, responsible for the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign in California, shared: "We filled our banks and thought it fitting to send the check of $150 today as our gift of love. The money has been saved by Schoenstatt home school children, Rosary campaign families, police record clerks and officers. We not only had pennies, but quarters, dimes, nickels and dollars. Matter of fact several people I work with asked for their own penny bank for their desk. At work we sold licorice and the money from it was put directly into the penny bank. We were going to have a machine count the money at the bank, but we didn’t want to pay the 9% they charge. So we rolled it all ourselves before taking it to the bank. Then the bank donated (i.e. waived) the check fee! An all around effort for our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic. Please send us more banks, we want to use them for Lent and for our families. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this work"
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