CU Becomes Collection Point For One-Million Pennies

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Munising Community Credit Union helped its local library raise more than $10,000-one penny at a time.

The $19.2-million credit union was the official collection site of the Million Penny Campaign launched by the Friends of Munising Library nearly three years ago. MCCU President Rick Gatiss said a five-foot-tall box made from plywood and Plexiglas sat in the credit union lobby until early February when the millionth penny was thought to be collected.

"About two years ago or so, the prior manager had worked with the Friends of Munising Library and wanted to do something to help their financial situation," Gatiss said. "They came up with this Million Penny Campaign and we became the key sponsor."

The money was needed to help the public part of the library shared by the local school district offer programs to both adults and children.

"Our library is half school and half public," said Lisa Cromell, VP of Friends of Munising Library. "We have very limited funding and have not been able to afford to do any programming."

Not only did community members drop by the CU with their donations, many dropped their loose pennies into the many canisters set out at various locations throughout the area, he said. Cromell added the fundraiser would not have been successful had it not been for the CU's support. Plus the credit union let them use both the parking lot and community room for various related fundraisers, including a flea market and bake sales.

"The credit union people were here with us in 2003 when we launched the campaign and they were here at the end," she said. "They were our biggest advocates."

The coins were tallied at the CU, using two coin-counting machines-one in-house, the other from a CU vendor. "What we thought we could do in six hours would have taken us at least 20 with one machine," Gatiss said, adding that the second machine came with its own operator. With several CU employees and library personnel, 179 bags of pennies worth $10,490 were counted and bagged in about eight hours.

Cromell said her six-year-old son, Evan, was thrilled with his job of sitting atop the copper mountain, scooping pennies into his beach pail with his tiny shovel. The young boy was the only person on hand small enough to crawl through the top of the bin, his mother said.

Besides the pennies, she said, coins from several foreign countries were discovered, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Malaysia and China. Those coins along with other odd finds such as a nail, guitar pick, bus tokens, religious medals and a stick of Big Red chewing gum, will become part of a library display.

Cromell said she's hoping that the box that withstood almost three tons of pennies will be put to good use.

"We're hoping it will go to another non-profit that will partner with another credit union for a fund raiser, " she said, adding that officials from two Michigan libraries have already called and expressed an interest.

"This was such a fantastic project," Cromell said, adding plans are under way to put the money raised to good use.

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