As Hurricane Florence ravaged the Carolinas in mid-September, students at Potlatch Elementary School in northwest Idaho decided they wanted to do something to help, one penny at a time.
Together the school of 256 kindergarteners through six-graders organized a penny drive, raising an amazing $1,975 for Red Cross disaster relief.
Even they were surprised by how much they brought in.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow!,” one student said. “I thought it was $100, not over $1,000!”
For some, the images of the destruction unfolding on their TV screens hit especially close to home.
“My parents let me dig through our vacation jar, and it felt good to help the hurricane people because my family was in a hurricane in Texas and I wanted to help others.”
Another student said she donated to the Red Cross “because they help so many people and animals when their houses are being destroyed."
The students presented Red Cross volunteer Vickie Lawrence, of Potlatch, with the check at an assembly earlier this month.
“It was amazing,” Lawrence said. “I was impressed with how the school is teaching these kids to be caring and understanding.”
Each class won a prize for the money they collected, but that’s not why they were taking part, their teachers said.
"It was so fun to watch the kids come into school in the morning with sorted bags of coins,” second-grade teacher Katie Payne said. “The kids really embraced the spirit of giving and didn't care in the end if they earned a pizza party or 10 minutes of extra recess. They were just as blown away as we were."
School counselor Cara Wallen couldn’t be prouder.
“We take pride in the excitement we share when we work together as a team to fulfill random acts of kindness within our school family,” Wallen said. “We had so much fun raising money for such a great cause.”
Since mid-September the Red Cross of Greater Idaho and Montana has deployed more than 30 volunteers and staffers to the Carolinas and Virginia to provide help and hope to families impacted by Hurricane Florence. The region is also sending volunteers and staff to the Gulf Coast in response to Hurricane Michael.