Dec. 21—With an awesome down-the-stretch closing kick — they collected 91 pounds of change in the fundraiser's final week — Missi Roper's kindergarten class won the prekindergarten-grade two division of Pennies for Presents at City Park School, while Dakota Vann's fifth-grade class kept its stranglehold on the older division with another title.
"We want to focus on giving back where we can and have pride in our school," Vann said. "They like a competition — maybe they take that from me — and we try to win everything."
Vann's class "wins every year, and I hoped we'd win," Amayah Taylor, one of Vann's students, said. "I brought most of my money from my piggy bank at home."
Each year, "we have one student" who leads this fundraising effort through action, and that was Giovanny Resendiz this time, Vann said. "He brought like $40 by himself from the allowance his parents give him."
Resendiz was grateful his contribution helped lift his class to the top of the older division, he said.
"(We're) helpings kids get presents."
All money raised — $2,100 this year — through Pennies for Presents is donated to Sharing is Caring, a community project designed to provide Christmas for children in Whitfield County who are living in poverty or whose family's circumstances might prevent them from receiving Christmas gifts, said Jackie Taylor, a school social worker.
"Many City Park children participate in that program."
Abby Asbell and Ale'yshia Broone were catalysts for collecting in Jamison Thomason's fourth-grade class, persistently reminding their classmates to bring pennies to school, said Thomason.
"Most already knew about it, and most brought pennies."
The school's student council also played a leading role, with members sorting change each week and making posters to place around the school with reminders about Pennies for Presents, said Amayah Taylor.
"I did two posters (myself the) last week" of competition.
It's rewarding to know presents will be gotten for fellow City Park students "because of us (and our donations)," Asbell said. "Christmas is coming up, and not everyone gets presents."
Some families "are not able to buy presents" due to financial hardship, Broone observed. However, "every" child deserves to have at least one present at Christmas.
With Pennies for Presents, "we ask students and their families to donate coins of any type to purchase food, clothing, toys and other holiday help items for" City Park families in need, said Hannah Talley, City Park's media specialist. The month-long endeavor also functions as a competition among classes to collect the most, and the winning class enjoys a pizza party.
It wasn't difficult to motivate kindergartners with a pizza party on the line, Roper said with a chuckle. "We were in second the whole time," but the final week's collection of 91 pounds meant Roper and a couple of her students needed a wheelbarrow to bring all their change for weighing to the cafeteria.
"I rarely say this, but I don't know where to start," Jackie Taylor said when she saw the collection from Roper's class. "I love a healthy competition when it benefits the children, and every penny helps."
City Park kicked off the collecting in the middle of November, with the final weigh-in Dec. 10. Roper's class collected 134 pounds total, while Vann's collected 85 pounds, and the school's total was 591 pounds, well clear of the 500-pound goal.
Jackie Taylor reminded students as they went on Thanksgiving break to ask relatives and family members for coin donations to supplement their own, which provided a healthy start to this year's campaign, she said.
"Collect pennies and save, save, save."