Schools, business rally to support campaign

Black Press' Pennies for Presents campaign kicks into high gear

The students at George Jay elementary may not have much, but that isn’t stopping them from doing what they can to help the less fortunate this holiday season.

“The kids here are so funny,” said Terri Smith, vice-principal at the Victoria school. “Many are food bank recipients and Christmas hamper recipients themselves, but they’re still scrounging their pennies and giving what they can.”

It’s a perfect example of the type of selflessness that makes holiday charity drives like Black Press’ Pennies For Presents campaign successful.

Smith, in her first year at George Jay, is impressed with the kids’ commitment to the cause. “It is a bit surprising, because on the one hand, when we go on a field trip, the question is ‘do we have to pay?’ But on the other hand, when I ask them to help other people, they’re giving their own pennies, which is very cool.”

It was eye-opening for many of the students to hear that although their families may be facing financial challenges, there are kids elsewhere with even bigger problems.

“That had a lot of impact on them,” Smith said. “It was kind of neat actually. The kids had tears thinking about other kids that are having trouble.”

Participating in the Pennies For Presents campaign is the school’s way of giving back to the community after being a charity recipient.

George Jay is one of six Greater Victoria schools taking part in this year’s campaign. Local businesses are getting into the act as well, with 26 different locations in the Capital Region accepting donations of spare change.

At University Heights Shopping Centre, the early returns have been greater than anticipated.

“There’s a box for people to put the coins in, and a bigger bucket.” said manager Mary Wise. “It’s filling up to the point where it’s almost too big to move. We had people coming in looking for where they could drop off their coins even before we had the donation box set up.”

Wise thinks the mall has a responsibility to give back.

“We like to think of ourselves as a community shopping centre. We’re pleased to be involved,” she said.

Black Press has run Pennies for Presents for 15 years. In 2012, donations go to five Greater Victoria charities: Victoria READ Society, Threshold Housing Society, Mary Manning Centre, suicide prevention group NEED2, and Young Parents Support Network.

Pennies for Presents – how you can help out

• Coins and paper cash donations can be dropped off at Black Press head office, 818 Broughton St.

• For a list of businesses that are accepting donations, watch for notices in the Oak Bay News and Victoria News Daily.