Penny drive pays off

Oak Bay Rotary club members have collected 127,200 pennies.

Rotary Club of Oak Bay President Joan Peggs

When the Government of Canada announced it intended to eliminate the penny from circulation, members of the Rotary Club of Oak Bay began a campaign to collect pennies from their members and friends to raise funds for Rotary International’s PolioPlus program.

“The challenge to members was to collect at least 100,000 pennies. To add impetus to the effort the club’s board decided to match the members’ efforts, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000,” said chair of the campaign Perry Bamji.

At the same time, the Canadian government announced its Pennies and More for Polio initiative, inviting Canadians to join the fight to eradicate polio. The government, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will provide funds to the World Health Organization’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative at a ratio of $1 for every $1 raised by Rotarians in Canada, up to a maximum of $1 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will do the same, resulting in every $1 raised by the Rotary Foundation in Canada leveraging an additional $2. “This was too good an opportunity to be missed,” said Bamji.

Six months later, club members have collected 127,200 pennies.

“As promised, the club’s board added another $1,000. This total of $2,272 will now be matched each by CIDA and the Gates foundation making a total of $6,816,” said Bamji.

It costs 60 cents to immunize one child against polio. Rotary Club of Oak Bay’s initiative will help immunize more than 11,000 children against the disease.

Although polio is largely unknown in industrialized nations, it is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, that can be prevented with immunization. The PolioPlus program helps Rotary fund operational costs, such as transportation, vaccine delivery, social mobilization, and training of health workers, and support surveillance activities in developing countries.

For more information go to polioeradication.org.