Penny Harvest: Students help homeless and hungry in Columbus

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

As students at Dana Elementary discussed the list of needs in their community, one third grade student suggests to her peers she thinks they should focus on helping out people who are homeless or people who are hungry and need food. She tells her fellow students, by focusing their support on helping people in these two groups, they may help to prevent growth in another group on the student's list, people who are sick.

This is just one example of the problem solving and leadership skills students in Columbus are developing during their participation in a year-long service-learning project called the Penny Harvest. Each week students from seven area elementary schools in the Columbus Public and Worthington School Districts are meeting in their classrooms to research, discuss and explore the needs of their community. These students are the first in Columbus to participate in the Penny Harvest, the nation's largest youth philanthropy program which is being introduced to Columbus by a local not-for-profit called See Kids Dream.

Last fall, nearly 3,000 students went door to door with their families, to connect with neighbors and raise money to help others. The students collected $15,114.16 nearly all of it in pennies or spare change. The penny gathering phase was just the first step in the year long Penny Harvest program.

Over the winter, students will research needs, debate causes and decide how they can make the greatest impact in their community by issuing grants to give back every penny they have collected. In addition to the small group discussions taking place, student leaders in each building are conducting interviews and polling their peers, and community members to ensure all the students in their school and members of their local community have a voice in the final decisions.

The Penny Harvest will conclude in the spring when students will take action by awarding grants and participating in hands-on service projects.

See Kids Dream was founded by Bill and Laura Grindle, parents of a preschooler and a 5th grade elementary student participating in the pilot. After learning about the Penny Harvest's seventeen year track record of success in New York, the couple felt compelled to bring the Penny Harvest to Columbus.

They formed a board of directors which includes executives from Huntington Bank, Capital Square Limited, ClearView Management Resources, Communica, Irvin Public Relations and Avatar Syndicate. The board is hopeful the student success from this year's pilot program will inspire support from individual and corporate donors so they can expand to additional schools and districts next year.

Every penny raised by the students is allocated back to the community by the students, so See Kids Dream's board members are working hard to secure the essential seed funding needed to support expansion. To learn more about See Kids Dream and how you can help bring the Penny Harvest to more schools and children in Columbus, visit