Students wage 'Penny War' to help others.

Author:Oleson, Ellie

Byline: Ellie Oleson

War will break out in the cafeteria of Burncoat Middle School in Worcester from Dec. 11 to Dec. 17. The Penny Wars pit groups in Grades 7 and 8 against each other to raise money for the Telegram & Gazette Santa Fund.

History teacher Katie Starczweski, event organizer, said this is the fifth year the wars will be fought.

"We're excited about it,'' she said. "The kids have a lot of fun searching under their couch cushions or floor of their cars for change. Every penny makes a difference, so every student can participate and know that they have helped another child in this area have a happy holiday.''

Giovanna Baisi, secretary to the assistant principal, said each of the three clusters in Grade 7 and three clusters in Grade 8 has a large water bottle to fill in the cafeteria. Each penny placed in a jar wins a point for that cluster. Each nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar or dollar placed in a jar brings points against that team.

Ms. Starczweski said: "The kids want to put pennies in their own team jar, but they put silver coins in their opponents' jars. A nickel is worth negative five points, a dime is worth negative 10 points and so on. The team with the most points at the end of the one-week competition wins.''

The coins will be counted by Peoples United Bank on Gold Star Boulevard. The bank also gives the school staff a printout numbering the types of coins in each jar, which helps with tallying a winner.

The real winners are the children who receive toys from the T&G Santa. Last year, the Burncoat Middle School Penny Wars led to a $1,422 donation to the local charity.

"We want to help the kids to look beyond themselves and to get involved,'' Ms. Starczweski said. "We know the Gazette Santa helps kids in our own community. We are aware that many of our families benefit. Our kids work so hard. They all learn that one person can help, that a small donation can make a big difference. We're happy to help the Gazette Santa.''

In its 75th year, the T&G Santa Fund collects thousands of donations from generous readers and area residents to help buy toys for children in need in Central Massachusetts. Children 12 and younger who would otherwise not receive any holiday gifts are eligible to receive at least two toys each. No applications will be accepted directly by the T&G.

Area agencies working with the T&G Santa include the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities Family and Children's Services of Southbridge, Gardner Community...

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