One stray quarter can go a long way.
Gray’s Woods Elementary students excavated about $170 worth of quarters from the couch cushions of Centre County and placed them in a jar located in the building’s main office.
Last Friday, that same canister was turned over to Housing Transitions, a local nonprofit that provides shelter and guidance to those experiencing or are threatened by homelessness.
“I just think it’s so nice to see the support from the community and have people understand what we do here,” said Morgan Wasikonis, Housing Transitions’ executive director.
It was a chili cook-off that brought these two star-crossed institutions together, a chance meeting between Wasikonis and Gray’s Woods’ principal, Kristen Dewitt, who offered to assist the nonprofit if ever they needed anything.
It turns out that a little spare change fit the bill.
“We always have quarters on our wish list but I didn’t realize how much they were used until I became executive director,” Wasikonis said.
Quarters make the washing machines go-round at Centre House, where several of Housing Transitions’ clients take refuge. They also come in handy on bus trips to the Housing Authority in Bellefonte or visits to other human service organizations that help people get back on their feet.
Kristen Koshko, Housing Transitions’ development and community relations director, oversaw the three-week collection effort.
Koshko thinks that the students enjoyed the opportunity to take a hands-on approach to grappling with the issue of homelessness.
“They felt empowered by it. This was something they could physically do,” she said.
In the future, it could also be an excuse to learn something — which is always appreciated at a school.
Should the quarter drive continue as an annual event, Koshko and Wasikonis would like to make sure that the students understand just how complex and far reaching an issue like homelessness can be.
“I think it’s good for them to realize that we even take care of families,” Wasikonis said.