At nine o’clock in the morning, the usually well-ordered hallways of Holy Cross School in South Portland were full of students rushing from classroom to classroom.
“Over here! Over here!” some students and teachers urged.
The students were engaged in Penny Wars, a friendly competition to raise money for Holy Cross’ sister school in Zimbabwe.
“In Zimbabwe, people aren’t as fortunate as us, and they need help, and since we’re a Catholic school, we wanted to do that,” said Samantha Clyde, a sixth grader.
Unlike most fundraisers, in Penny Wars, the simple cent is the most treasured donation. Each penny put in a classroom’s money jar is worth a point, but the value of each silver coin or dollar bill is subtracted from the total. The aim, then, is to stuff your own classroom’s jar with pennies, while tossing in nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars in the jars of your competitors.
“It’s a great way for the kids to be involved and to raise money because even young children have pennies, so it’s not the parents doing it. The kids can actually give their own pennies,” said Christine L’Abbé, principal.
The teams had different battle strategies.
“It’s like reverse psychology. You say that you want all the quarters. Then, they end up saying, ‘No, I don’t want to give you something that you want,’” explained Amelia Kostin, grade 8.
“We saved up all the pennies, so that the others didn’t see that we had that much, and they’re like, ‘Oh, they’re not going to win.’ Then, right at the end, when she counted to 10, we put in all our pennies. I saw our bucket upstairs, and it was filled to the top,” said Samantha.
The competition was held throughout Catholic Schools Week, but the jars were emptied and the money counted each day so that students would know where their team stood. On Friday, when all the coins and dollars were added together, it totaled $2,100. That is the most since the school started holding the competition in 2015 to raise money for the Ngamo Primary and Secondary Schools in Tsholotsho. The money will be used for tuition assistance, uniforms, building projects, and other needs. As she has done in the past, L’Abbé will travel to Zimbabwe over the summer to see how the money is being used and to take photos to share with the students.
Along with helping children in Zimbabwe, the students say another benefit of Penny Wars is the community it builds within the school.
“It’s really exciting because I get to meet all of the underclassmen, and I get to feel part of a community, and everyone else does, too. It’s really fun,” said Amelia.
“It’s really fun because we get to see people that we normally don’t get to see around a lot,” said Samantha.
The team with the most points and the team that collected the most money will both be rewarded with a pizza party for their efforts.
Penny Wars is just one of the fundraising activities at Holy Cross School during Catholic Schools Week. The students also collected items such as hats, gloves, and socks for the South Portland Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine and items such as dog and cat food, toys, treats, and blankets for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. The donations will be presented at a prayer service on Friday, February 1.