Spare change makes difference in community

by Life Editor Melissa Parker

Those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters rolling around beneath the car seats may not seem like much, but they could make a big difference to someone in need.

Jo Wood, president of Florence’s St. Vincent de Paul, said 100 percent of the financial donations the charity receives goes to the community.

Services help clients pay for rent, utilities, doctor visits and medicine, she said.

“We see an average of 24 families a week for various things,” she said. “That’s a drop in the bucket for the needs in the community.”

Wood said they like to include the client in the process.

“We’ll tell a client, ‘We can help you with the last $100, but if the bill is $300 or $400 you’re going to need more help than just from us,’” she said.

Help with utilities is the biggest concern clients come to them with, she said.

“We want to prevent homelessness,” Wood said.

People donating half of their change every month would make an impact over time, she said.

Sophomore Ragen Darby said she thinks donating change could make a substantial difference.

“Think about when you go through fast food places and you get your change back,” she said. “That money could change something.”

Executive Director of Safeplace Rachel Hackworth said she believes all members of society giving a little makes an impact.

“When everybody comes together with what change they have, what a difference they can make,” she said.

Safeplace serves 3,600 to 3,800 people in six counties every year and offers services such as a safe shelter, 24-hour help line, housing stability services, prevention education at schools and court-ordered violence intervention programs, she said.

“Safeplace is the comprehensive domestic violence program,” she said.

Safeplace started a program called “Pave the Way for Change” last year, she said, and $15,000 was raised just from collecting change.

Jars are put out at local businesses and are also available for individuals to pick up, she said. People can put their change in the jar and turn it in to Safeplace on a designated date.

“That money goes to support the services for victims of domestic violence in Safeplace’s six-county service areas,” she said.

One of the six counties hosts the event at one of their fall festivals each year, she said. Last year, Russellville’s Watermelon Festival hosted the event. This year it will be at Red Bay’s Founder’s Day Festival Sept. 19.

The organization will cover an intersection at the event with a tarp and set a goal to fill the entire area with change, she said.

“People will come and throw their change, sometimes they throw their dollars into the tarp,” she said. “We use those funds to actually change people’s lives.”

Hackworth said when people come together and give what they can, even if they do not feel they have a lot of money to give, it can make a difference.

“It’s incredible that you could do that with the change in your pocket,” she said.

Junior Kelsey Davis said she thinks giving the change normally spent on a newspaper or a cup of coffee could make a difference.

“I don’t do that with my change, but maybe I should,” she said. “I leave it in my car or it gets lost in my purse. If I was intentional with it, I could put it in a jar, save it up and give it to something more useful.”

Junior Antonio Newsome said he does not discriminate between coins and dollar bills.

“Quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies … Money is money,” he said. “I save up money all of the time. I have two piggy banks in the house and one in the car.”

Newsome said he considers donating his spare change to help a local charity.

Senior Kira Barrow said she uses her spare change to help people who have served in the military.

“I tend to (donate) to local veterans,” she said. “I will save my change in a cup, I live in Huntsville, so I’ll go to wherever the local veterans are and donate my change. Anything helps.”

Senior Trey Abernathy said spare change can be hard to come by, considering many people uses a debit card rather than cash, but would use his spare change to donate if he had some.

“People use debit cards now, so there may not be as much change,” he said. “As far as people using cash, there would be quite a bit (of spare change).”

Abernathy said any amount of change would be useful for a select cause.