Pennies From Everywhere

I just read a post by Dan Lewis at Now I Know that I found interesting and thought you might too. It has been edited for brevity. To subscribe to receive daily posts from Dan:


—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Dan Lewis
Subject: Now I Know: Pennies From Everywhere

Now I Know: Pennies From Everywhere

Shannon Forde is a woman whom I have never met but, recently, did a really great thing for my family. Today, I’m repaying the favor as best I can, and am asking that you help.

My mom is a huge Mets fan (in fact, my whole family is) and we had her milestone birthday party at a Mets game in August. I asked this list to help me make it extra special, by helping me make a connection at the Mets. You guys came through, and via Twitter and later email, I spoke with Shannon, the senior director of media relations for the Mets. She was able to get us access to some behind the scenes stuff, including inviting us to watch batting practice from the field and take a big, 21-person family picture in the dugout. For my mom, it was a very special day, one of the best of her life, she’d tell me after. For Shannon, it was all in a day’s work, except that just a few weeks before, she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.

Shannon’s doing whatever she can to fight the cancer, but the treatments and the disease have taken an incredible toll, all with the great unknown questions in her future. To help her, a non-profit foundation is collecting donations to help pay for her medical and household expenses. I’m donating the proceeds of today’s Now I Know to the effort. And I am asking you to help too. Please consider donating to Shannon’s fundraising drive — even as little as a dollar. (The story below is about donating pennies, but if you do that, PayPal will take 100% of it as a fee, and that won’t help.) If even one percent of you donate a dollar each, we’ll raise nearly $1,000. To donate, go here and scroll down to the “Donate” button at the bottom of the page. Thanks. — Dan

Pennies From Everywhere

College tuition is expensive, at least in the United States. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), for example, charges an estimated $31,000 to in-state students who live on campus, and that price shoots up to over $54,000 per year if you happen to hail from outside of California due to a “non-resident supplemental tuition.” The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) has a similar price tag, with a base tuition of $24,000 for out-of-staters (and just under $11,000 for in-state students) plus an estimated $16,000 for room, board, and other expenses. That comes to about $27,000 for in-state students or $40,000 for non-residents, per year.

So you could see why someone from Illinois would prefer to go to U of I than, say, UCLA. Out of the gate, they’re saving roughly half the cost. But $27,000 a year for four years is still a lot of money. Even with grants and scholarships and student loans available, that’s a significant expense for almost anyone. In 1987, a U of I freshman named Mike Hayes figured out a neat way to cut his costs. He asked a columnist at the Chicago Tribune to help him find donors to back his education — one penny at a time.

That year, Hayes wrote to columnist Bob Greene with his novel idea. If Hayes could get 2.8 million people to each send him one penny, his tuition, room, board, and the like would be paid for in full. (For a current U of I student, that would be one year’s fees. For Hayes, that was for all four years.)

It was an outlandish request, sure, but it perhaps it played on Greene’s sense of ego. On September 6, 1987, Greene wrote a column-slash-call-to-action, hoping to get those 2.8 million pennies for the young Mr. Hayes. They realized that the challenge was, likely, foolish:

“That`s a pretty funny idea. I think I`ll send the kid a penny.”

And when Hayes graduated in 1991, Greene did a follow-up piece. The result: Hayes did not end up getting 2.8 million pennies. He ended up getting far fewer than that — but, to make up for it, he received a bunch of nickels and quarters and even some paper currency and checks. People from all fifty states and a few places overseas sent small donations to Hayes. Most of the money — $23,000 of it — came within the first few weeks. And during that short time period, the postmaster of Hayes’ hometown estimates that Hayes received roughly 70,000 pieces of mail, meaning the average donation was in the 35-cent range, plus another 22 cents for postage. In the end, he collected $29,000 — more than enough to cover his education. As for the leftover $1,000, Hayes decided to pay it forward:

Mike plans to give the extra $1,000 to a deserving college student from one of the families that sent him pennies. “I’m not going to be real scientific about it,” he said. “I’m just going to stick my hand into those 90,000 letters we saved, start calling people whose names are on the envelopes I grab, and ask if there`s a person in their family who needs $1,000 for college. I`m going to trust them-I`m going to count on them to tell me if they don`t really need the college money. If they don`t need it, I`ll move on to the next envelope.”

That’s 10,000 pennies, in case you’re counting.

From the Archives: From Abe to Zinc: It costs 1.62 cents to make a penny and get it into circulation.

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About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
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4 Responses to Pennies From Everywhere

  1. billgncs says:

    I’d like to put in my two cents worth…. ( smile )

    this proves little things make big changes.

  2. mindfuldiary says:

    So tue, many small acts (pennies) create huge change. (smiling) Your posts rock Russ!

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