Co-op Shoppers Donate Nearly $50,000 to Charity in 3 Months
Change is making a big impact in the community
Since June, Co-op shoppers have donated nearly $50,000 to Upper Valley nonprofits through Pennies for Change, a charitable-giving program built on an innovative approach to collecting money at the registers for area needy.
"It's our shoppers who deserve the credit for the program's success," said Emily Rogers, a Co-op educator who spearheaded the program. "We just made it easier for people to give if they wanted to. Once we did, the donations poured in."
Through Pennies for Change, shoppers can round up their grocery bill to the next dollar and the Co-op will donate the difference to community nonprofits.
The program replaces a solid, albeit low-tech system the Co-op used for nearly two decades: small plastic bins at the registers for collecting loose change.
"Co-op shoppers have always been very giving, which is why our programs have been so popular for so long," Rogers said. "But people don't carry change anymore. We needed a new, convenient method for people to be able to give."
Pennies for Change rolled out in early June. Organizers hoped to collect $10,000 per month, or $60,000 by the end of the year.
To date, the program has already raised $49,760.11. Pennies for Change is on track to raise more than $20,000 in September alone.
At the register, Co-op shoppers can round up their bill to the next dollar by telling a cashier or by answering a prompt on the keypad of a credit-card scanner. The Co-op then divides the donations among two groups: Community Partners and Food Access Partners.
Two Community Partners receive 40 percent of the donations, split 30 and 10 percent, respectively. Community Partners change each month.
This year's Community Partners are: Child and Family Services of NH, Good Neighbor Health Clinic/Red Logan Dental Clinic, Headrest, League of NH Craftsmen, Mascoma Valley Health Initiative, Opera North, Ottauquechee Health Foundation, Twin Pines Housing Trust, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Vital Communities, Watson Upper Valley Dog Park Supporters, WISE, Women’s Health Resource Center, and the Upper Valley Humane Society.
This year's Food Access Partners are Listen Community Services, the Upper Valley Haven, and Willing Hands.
“The funds we have received from Pennies for Change would fill 21 fuel tanks this winter, support 1,600 community dinners, or send 30 kids to summer camp for free,” said Kyle Fisher, executive director for Listen Community Services, an Upper Valley agency that provides a wide variety of services to families in need.
Gabe Zoerheide, executive director for Willing Hands, an organization that collects and distributes nutritious food throughout the Upper Valley, said his group can now get more food to people who need it.
"Pennies for change has just been incredible," he said. "We've had an incredible growth in the amount of food we've been getting from local farms. Pennies for Change has allowed us to keep up with this amount. That's the immediate benefit—we've been able to expand our programs and get more food to the people who need it in our community, all thanks to Pennies for Change."
In an email interview, Jenn Merritt, development and communications associate for the Upper Valley Haven, a busy shelter and food bank, listed several ways Pennies for Change has supported the Haven to date and will help in the coming months.
"We are so grateful to be recipients of the Pennies for Change program and the generosity of Co-op shoppers," she said. "Each month’s funding has been different and will continue to be a delightful surprise."
Merritt said donations could:
- help with the electric bill for the Haven’s adult and family shelters, food shelf, children’s program space, and administrative offices; or
- provide direct support to people struggling to get on their feet, such as a security deposit or first month’s rent for an apartment for about six households; or
- support the agency's director of volunteer services, who assisted 1,266 people from the community in the past year in bringing their energy and talents to volunteer roles at the Haven; or
- help pay for the breakfast and lunch meals provided over summer for kids in the Haven's Children’s Program, and the weekend backpacks of food that went home for the children and their families.
“When I shop at the Co-op and round up my bill, I get a great feeling about how just a little action on my part is reaching out into the community, not just for the Haven but for all of the other organizations that work so hard to help make the Upper Valley a great place to live," Sara Kobylenski, the Haven’s executive director, wrote in an email. "I am so grateful to the Co-op for giving me this extra, easy way to be part of the community, and to help our service at the Haven."