Penny Power


A grateful Haven benefits from Co-op Food Stores’ Pennies for Change Program

Never underestimate the power of spare change. Since June 2016, the Co-op Food Stores’ Pennies for Change program has given shoppers the option to round up their order at check-out to the next full dollar amount with the difference donated to non-profit organizations in the Upper Valley. “We give 60% to our three food access partners, the Upper Valley Haven, Listen Center, and Willing Hands,” explains Co-op Government and Community Outreach Specialist April Harkness. The remaining 40% goes to a rotating group of organizations that fall into the Co-op’s other two giving themes: community engagement and environmental responsibility.

In early 2021, Pennies for Change hit a huge milestone: $1 million donated directly to area organizations. The Haven’s share is an amazing $196,032.96—which is a lot of pennies! Those donations have gone right to work, helping the Haven provide food, shelter, supportive housing, service coordination, children’s services, educational programming, and more for individuals and families across our community who are in need. Haven Executive Director, Michael Redmond, commented on this achievement, “The Haven receives about 90 percent of our total revenue from gifts from the community. Without this support, we can’t do our work. Truly, every penny counts!”

“This isn’t money that the Co-op has raised and given away,” April continues. It’s money our customers—in Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire, White River Junction, Vermont, as well as online—have donated. Credit also goes to our employees, who ask every shopper if they want to round up. That’s not always the easiest or most comfortable thing to do.”

The program replaced the change boxes that were a fixture at store registers for many years. In the age of credit and debit card swipes, however, most people had simply stopped carrying change; donations had greatly dwindled over time. “Our innovative teams came up with Pennies for Change as alternative,” April says. It’s a great example of being creative and responsive in order to meet our communities where they are.

“By any measure, collecting more than $1 million in less than five years is an extraordinary achievement. It’s had a huge impact in our community. We’re grateful to all the shoppers who have contributed for their kindness and generosity. Pennies for Change is a huge success, thanks to them,” says April, who notes that she is already looking ahead to the next milestone. “Now, I’m really excited to reach the next million!

*A big thank you to all involved with the Co-op Food Stores’ Pennies for Change program as well as Common Cents, a community contribution program offered by the Upper Valley Food Co-op.

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