Student business generates impressive donation

The Seattle Waldorf School Community Giving Store.

The Seattle Waldorf School Community Giving Store.

In Waldorf education, 6th grade is a time when classes get deeply involved in community service. For many, that means volunteering at food banks, or doing environmental cleanup. But Wim Gottenbos’ 6th grade class at the Seattle Waldorf School spent the past spring developing a lively business that raised $2,000 in profits to support Solid Ground.

“Kids this age are starting to really see themselves,” said class parent Kimberly Hiner. In order to balance that, it is important for the students “to see greater need and the greater world out there.”

For four consecutive Fridays, the class opened shop at the end of the school day, selling their artwork, homemade lip balm, hand-knit mittens, pencil boxes, candles, baked goods and other items to schoolmates and their families. Stunning geometric-colored pencil drawings were printed as note cards and a poster, then marketed through the school newsletter.

Every one of the class’ 29 students created products to sell and took on business functions like marketing, accounting and direct sales. “I told them: ‘Every family has a strength. Find out what your strength is and bring that into this effort.'”

The project drew on many elements of the Waldorf curriculum, including geometry, handwork and business math.

Dean McColgan, Development Director at Solid Ground, spent about an hour with the students talking to them about the role of nonprofit organizations, the importance of community support, and Solid Ground’s mission and services. Dean said, “The project taught basic business principles, like accounting and inventory, but emphasized the importance of giving back to the community. When I presented to the class, I was very impressed with the students’ knowledge and eagerness to learn about the importance of nonprofit work.”

Each student in the 6th grade contributed a pencil drawing to this poster. Note cards were also created from the drawings.

Each student in the 6th grade contributed a pencil drawing to this poster. Note cards were also made from the drawings.

Perhaps a more long-term result of the project was how it created opportunity for conversations about privilege and equity.

“We developed an awareness of people that do not have the wealth and comfort that we have,” said Wim. “These students have breakfast every morning in their homes; they attend a private school. Most have their own rooms and own beds. So we imagine what it is like for kids of the same age who do not have the same things, who do not have breakfast, and must wait at school for their breakfast. Our task is to open the world for them, to help them connect to the outside world.”

“The students were proud of what they accomplished,” noted parent Liz Yaroschuk. “There was a sense of ownership in the business, deciding what products to sell, how much to charge. They were stunned by the amount of money they raised.”

“And,” added Kimberly, “they were incredibly impressed at what Solid Ground does.” Dean hopes to return to the school later this fall and report back to the students on the impact of their investment.

(Disclosure: I’ve drank the Waldorf Kool-Aid. My daughter is a 2014 graduate of the Seattle Waldorf School and my wife is on its Early Childhood staff.)

Power in pennies: A tribute to Penny Harvest

Unfortunately, Solid Ground is ending its sponsorship of the Penny Harvest program on June 30th, 2014. Penny Harvest advocates are still looking for a new home for the program.

Environmental stewards. Philanthropists. Community leaders. These are not usually titles we give to kids, even if the phrase “making a difference” is constantly pushed throughout school curricula. Is there a way that schools can facilitate the kindly intentions of students who are just at the beginning stages of a lifetime of learning? With the Penny Harvest program, one can truly call these little humanitarians, from kindergarten to 12th grade, bighearted superstars.

Penny drive at Adams Elementary School, 2011

Penny drive at Adams Elementary School, 2011

Bringing the drive to Seattle

In 1992, Solid Ground (then known as the Fremont Public Association) partnered with Family Services (now Wellspring Family Services) and Atlantic Street Center to create Common Cents to teach area youth about homelessness through a spring coin drive paired with educational presentations. Around $40,000 per year was raised to serve families experiencing homelessness, all the while engaging thousands of students in philanthropic efforts.

In 2005, the program became affiliated with the New York-based Common Cents and changed the name of the local operation to Penny Harvest. The model of the program also shifted from funding three specific organizations to allowing youth to select who and what to fund, and expanded to include a stronger focus on social justice work. Penny Harvest is now a national service-learning program engaging students between the ages of four and 18 in processes of philanthropy including gathering pennies, grant making and taking action as leaders in their community. The program introduces students to the power of giving and volunteerism, and thus they learn the right steps to drive change in their communities. Organizations that have received donations include everything from safe housing for youth and families, animal welfare, environmental justice to individual sponsorship of a homeless man in the neighborhood.

Find a penny, pick it up…

Kathleen Penna in a van full of sacks

Kathleen Penna in a van full of sacks

Different than your typical fundraiser, the Penny Harvest was more like a scavenger hunt at times. “Pennies are usually very accessible, especially to young people. You can find them everywhere. [Students] look under their couches, ask their neighbors. They have big jars that they keep in their schools,” says Kathleen Penna, Community Development Program Coordinator (and former Penny Harvest Program Coordinator) at Solid Ground. “They’re also something that we don’t often think of as useful anymore, because you can’t buy anything with [just] pennies.” When asked what was her favorite part about the actual collection of pennies, Kathleen says, “It was cool to see the giant piles of pennies. We had U-Haul vans that were full of pennies.”

This sort of energetic strategy can really get kids engaged, allowing them to experience the difficult, hands-on work it takes to fundraise. It also increases excitement around getting involved in the decision making process on where to allocate the funds, a task for which the students are 100% in charge.

Ana Lucía Degel as a Penny Harvest Youth Board member,  June 2005

Ana Lucía Degel as a Penny Harvest Youth Board member, June 2005

One former Penny Harvest participant, Ana Lucía Degel, says that this kind of empowerment “has profoundly shaped my ability to examine my role in my community, my own privilege, and my determination to affect change through the work that I choose to do.” Ana Lucía  is currently an Education Specialist with Treehouse, providing dropout prevention services and education case management for youth who have experienced foster care. “Penny Harvest planted the seed within me that I am capable of dreaming change that seems impossible, and I can find ways to take steps towards that change by working within my community.”

This sort of sentiment can be heard from students and adults alike. “Our main goal is that young people learn that they can and do make a difference at a very early age,” says Mike Beebe, former Penny Harvest Program Manager at Solid Ground. “Learning about community input, mapping community assets, community organizing. What we can do working together is so much more powerful than what we can do as one person. In some ways, I think that challenges the narrative in our country around individualism,” says Mike.

Steering the ship

Penny Harvest Youth Boards consisted of 10 members and were open to any student who committed to it. This past year, there were a couple of members who started in 2nd grade and are now of driving age. Of their role over the last few months, Kathleen says, “They are really steering the ship of the program.”

Ana Lucía says that one of her favorite parts of the program was being on the Board. “I really began to feel empowered to make a difference in my community,” she says.

The Board typically met every Monday and talked about the visioning and transitioning of the program, wrote and sent out appeal letters, and planned events like the Youth Philanthropy Summit.

Youth Board meeting in 2002

Youth Board meeting in 2002

The Summit was always a special time of year. “This year we had about 140 students who came to the Summit. They got the chance to meet about 30 different organizations from across the city that do a wide variety of work and really connect with them on a different level,” explains Kathleen. After that initial meeting, students then workshopped and dug into the root causes of issues they care about most. “It’s really complicated and complex and compacted. It was really cool to see everyone from the 16-year-old Youth Board members to the kindergartners who were there,” says Kathleen.

Continuing the mission

Sometimes it seems crazy to think that something as small as a penny could ever make a difference in anyone’s life. A piece of currency that has been, for some years now, considered almost unnecessary in our economy and one that is constantly on the verge of becoming obsolete. However, the mission of the Penny Harvest program is to turn one person’s inept coinage into a student’s philanthropic development that benefits the community.

“The most meaningful social change that’s happened in this country, it’s the youth and young adults who’ve led that effort,” Mike explains to describe the program’s impact. “But we’re even taking it down to kindergarten age and saying, ‘Well, they can do that right now.’ We don’t have to wait until they’re high school or college age, or wait till they’re in their 30s. Let’s not waste time. Let’s support them in doing that now.”

If you are interested in assisting Penny Harvest in finding a new host organization, please contact Common Cents through Mike Beebe at 206.354.7312 or mpbeebe@gmail.com.

Youth Service America gives Penny Harvest a shout out

Contributed by Kathleen Penna, Interim Penny Harvest Program Coordinator

Adams Elementary check presentation to PAWS

Penny Harvest Philanthropy Roundtable members from Adams Elementary School present a check to one of their chosen grantees, PAWS.

On September 26, Youth Service America highlighted youth philanthropic efforts across the country. Solid Ground is excited that they recommend Common Cents Penny Harvest, the largest youth philanthropy program in the country. (Solid Ground operates the Seattle branch of Penny Harvest.) Also in the report: A new study finds that 90% of youth ages eight to 19 participate in philanthropic efforts. We believe that engaging young people in strengthening their communities is a vital part of ending poverty.

Penny Harvest provides young people, their families, and their schools with the tools to take action and create positive social change on the issues they see impacting their communities. To start each year, students collect and gather coins. Student leaders at each school research issues impacting their community, interview organizations working on those issues, and make grants to organizations they see having the greatest impact.

Registration is still open for the 13/14 school year! If you are interested in signing up your school, please register at www.pennyharvest.org/SignUp, or email pennyharvestseattle@solid-ground.org for more information.

Cole’s Big Gift

This post, written by Lettuce Link/Apple Corps AmeriCorps Member Amelia Swinton, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link Blog. Visit Lettuce Link’s webpage for more information about the program. 

This month, Lettuce Link is featuring a particularly special first-time donor. Meet 8-year-old Cole Pawlitschek. Don’t be fooled by his small stature – his generosity and insight into giving knocked our socks off.

Cole Pawlitschek

Cole Pawlitschek: a small but mighty Lettuce Link donor!

For two years, Cole reserved a portion of his allowance, chore and birthday money into a “save” jar. The nickels and dimes grew steadily, and last month Cole decided he had saved enough money to make a difference. Cole came into our office with his mom, Maya, to hand over $62 in cash and $11.87 in loose change.

Cole says he chose Lettuce Link “because I wanted to help kids that don’t have food to get some. Marra Farm grows vegetables and gives them to people for free.”

When it comes to vegetables, Cole is especially fond of steamed edamame with salt sprinkled on top. Though we don’t grow edamame (immature soybeans) at Marra Farm, we do grow several items that could be adapted into one of Cole’s favorite recipes – Mr. Egg Face Sandwiches! Radish eyeballs, asparagus mouths, frizzy lettuce hair … sounds like we’ve got a tasty treat to prepare with our garden classes this spring.

Aside from noshing on edamame, Cole can be found playing video games, doing math and reading, and participating in basketball, soccer and karate. He also makes sure to spend time with his kitten, Pluma. Cole says that his mom, dad and family are the important communities in his life, as well as Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network and all his friends.

When asked about why he donates part of his money, Cole reminds us, “Some people in tons of places all over the world don’t have enough money to buy food or houses or beds or toys.”

These days, Lettuce Link relies more and more on the generosity of individual donors like Cole to sustain our work. His advice for adults who want to make a difference: “Grown ups can give money so Marra Farm can grow more stuff and give to people. They can also volunteer at places to help raise money and help them do their work.”

As Cole notes, there is no single way to support our work. We need all types – those who give time, money, in-kind donations, expertise and more. Alongside our diverse community of supporters, we’ll keep working to make fresh food a right for everyone! Thank you to Cole and all those who support us growing forth into 2012!

Mr. Egg Face SandwichesMR. EGG FACE SANDWICH
(from Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Annabel Karmel, adapted by Maya Pawlitschek, mother of Cole)

Ingredients (for 4 sandwiches)

  •  7 eggs
  •  ¼ cup mayonnaise or hummus – add more if needed
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  8 slices of bread
  • 1 can tuna and/or 1 cup shredded cheese (optional – for extra protein)
  •  Face decorations such as: sliced radishes or bell pepper, grated carrot, edamame, olives, salami, gherkins, chives, basil, peas, celery or grape tomatoes

Directions

  1. Hard boil eggs, let cool and peel.
  2. Cut two eggs into four slices each for the eyes.
  3. With a fork, mash the remaining eggs in bowl; add the tuna, shredded cheese and mayonnaise.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread egg mixture on four slices of bread.
  6. Have kids make faces on bread, using the sliced egg eyes and decoration ideas above.
  7. Cover with piece of plain bread and enjoy!

 

Nurturing a philanthropic community

While the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is known worldwide for its philanthropic leadership, on the sleepy western edge of Ballard another institution has developed as a cutting-edge incubator for the next generation of philanthropists.

Adams Elementary, Ballard's philanthropic juggernaut

For the last five years, Adams Elementary School has been cultivating young leaders and empowering them to make a difference.  In connection with Solid Ground’s Penny Harvest program, Adams students have  raised many thousands of dollars for area nonprofits. In the process, they have created a community culture of engagement.

“The whole school really buys into it,” said parent volunteer Bobbi Windus, who has coached the Adams Penny Harvest effort all five years.

“The kids really look forward to it and I really love seeing the kids develop their leadership skills.” Windus said. “Now that we have done it for several years, younger kids are really looking forward to it. [I hear things like:] ‘Oh when I am in Fourth Grade, I’m going to be on the leadership team!’ A mom emailed me at the beginning of this year. Her younger daughter had just started kindergarten and she was thrilled to death when she got her penny collection bag because she had seen her older brother do it.”

Daniel, Riahna and Roscoe carry some of Adams' 2011 harvest

This year Adams students collected 22 sacks of change, totaling nearly 700 pounds of coins, and a few hundred dollars in paper money.

Erica Slotkin volunteered to deliver Adams’ 2011 harvest to the Penny Harvest office earlier this week. A parent at the school, with a son who is now on the Leadership Roundtable and a daughter whose kindergarten coin collection jar was overflowing, Slotkin also works for Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, an environmental agency that has received support from the Adams Penny Harvest.

“It’s been really rewarding for me as a mom and as a community member,” she said. Two years running, I’ve been able to take my son to the spring Penny Harvest Youth Summit as a younger kid not yet involved. He was able to watch and get to see what was going on at that level. To be able to share what I do as my work with him was also really neat.”

The Roundtable is each school’s leadership group. They promote the coin harvest, assess what issues students are concerned about, and make granting decisions with money allocated to them by Penny Harvest.

Riahna points to Caring Cards in the school cafeteria

Every student at Adams participates in identifying issues by writing or drawing on Caring Cards that the Roundtable groups by theme. The cards are displayed in the school cafeteria.

This democratic process gives them guidance in their research of area nonprofits. In 2010 Adams granted $1,000, which was distributed among Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, PAWS and New Beginnings shelter.

Roscoe, who is now serving his second year on the Roundtable,  was a strong advocate for Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “I really like what Puget Soundkeeper is doing, because my family has a boat,” he said. “I hate it when we go through really polluted water.”

In addition to allocating grants, the Roundtable coordinates community service projects, such as a food drive to benefit the Ballard Food Bank, or a toy drive to benefit Treehouse.

Adams students also make an annual video project to promote the Penny Harvest.

Display boards at the school promote Penny Harvest

“You have to hit the ground running, because the Penny Harvest occurs early in the school year,” said Windus. “That first year I said, ‘Guys we have to do a kickoff assembly,’ but not a single one of the students was willing to talk at the assembly. So, we came up with the video idea.”

This year’s video features Abe the Penny looking for ways to be helpful around the school. Previous videos have spoofed Star Wars and taken other lighthearted approaches to promoting philanthropy.

“It’s really become a deep part of our culture,” Windus said.

Penny Harvest teaches children the power of philanthropy

Anna Zuckerman in yellow got a doggy kiss from Miss Floppy as her fellow Penny Harvest panel members looked on. From left they are Leah Zuckerman, Selma Taber, Amy Ijeoma and Chloe Denelsbeck. Miss Floppy's owner and President of AARF (Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation) at far left is Heather Enajibi. Photo by Patrick Robinson, used by permission of the West Seattle Herald.

As I sat in Room 307 at Madison Middle School yesterday, I was reminded once again why I love my job.

The Penny Harvest youth philanthropy roundtable that aptly named themselves “How to be Awesome” were interviewing organizations that they were considering granting funds.

The questions they asked “were probing and pointed and the answers provided real insights into both the spectrum and depth of their need,” according to a write up about the group in the West Seattle Herald.

I found myself uplifted by the fact that I was sitting in a room with six young people in 5th through 8th grade, and they were having open and honest conversations with adults about real life issues that our communities face every day: child abuse, homophobia, suicide, homelessness, mental illness, animal abuse. Here’s the best part: Not only were they engaged in dialogue, but they were deciding what they can do about it…and adults were coming to young people for help to figure it out!

Real change happens when we engage all parts of our community in problem solving, and young people are critical partners in creating change. These students are doing just as they named themselves, teaching the world “how to be awesome.” Thank you Madison Middle school student leaders.

Editor’s note: If you are interested in supporting Penny Harvest, or want to learn more about the program, email Mike Beebe: mikebe@solid-ground.org.

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