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A penny saved is ... $1,700 for the food bank

Cambridge Lakes Purple School Principal JamisPearce hands check for $1700 Hester Bury Northern Illinois Food Bank. The donatiwill provide

Cambridge Lakes Purple School Principal Jamison Pearce hands a check for $1,700 to Hester Bury of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. The donation will provide holiday meals for 56 families. | Submitted Photo courtesy Maria Featherly

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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:08AM

Last week, The Courier-News reported on the efforts of Cambridge Lakes Charter School pupils to save their pennies. Their intention was to give part of the money to an area food bank and use some of it for materials and programs at the school. Now the students have agreed to forgo some of their own benefit toward the good of others.

This change in plans will provide a happier holiday season to area families in need, school officials say.

The third- and fourth-grade students at Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove recently raised $1,700 during a coin drive. Rather than spread the wealth around to other worthy causes in-house, the charter school decided to donate the entire amount to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

“(The donation) means that 56 families are going to have a nice holiday meal,” Hester Bury, director of corporate and foundation giving at the Northern Illinois Food Bank said.

The donations will go to the Holiday Meal Box program. Each box provides a holiday meal for a family of eight including a 12-14 pound turkey, stuffing and potato mixes, canned yams, vegetables, fruits, coffee and dessert. The boxes are distributed to 30 different local food pantries in the 13 Illinois counties closest to Cook County that the Northern Illinois Food Bank serves.

Before teachers presented Bury with the check, she asked the students about their holiday plans. Most said they enjoyed turkey on Thanksgiving and looked forward to presents at Christmas. More than 30,000 children in Northern Illinois deal with hunger instead of gifts during the holidays, Bury said. The donation helps combat their hardship.

The charter school students raised the money during a coin drive completion between home rooms to score the most points from November 12-16. Donated pennies and paper money to a student’s home room earned points. Donated silver coins to other home rooms subtracted from their point totals to make for friendly competition.

Fourth-grade student Austin Cruz said his favorite part of the event was a basketball side game.

Jamison Pearce, Purple School (grades 3 and 4) principal donated $100 to the overall total. He let students and teachers shoot baskets for his donation to count towards their home room point total. Students got $1 for the first make then they had the option of keeping the dollar or risking it for two in a row. A second make earned an additional $5 donation to a classroom total, but a miss meant losing the $1 towards a homeroom total.

“(The completion) was fun.” Cruz said. “I think that everyone should be able to have food on the holidays.”

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