Coins count

Loose change nets nearly $17,300 for winter heating programs
By VIcki Hyatt | Feb 21, 2014
Darlene Allison and Noralyn Grindstaff transfer rolled coins and dollar bills from the coin box to buckets.

An effort that started almost two years ago to gather spare coins to help keep Haywood County residents warm during the winter came to an end Wednesday, raising a grand total of $17,300.

A total of $13,710.30 in coin, bills and wrapped rolls was collected Wednesday when the coin box in the Waynesville Police Department lobby was emptied by volunteers.

Last year the three organizations sharing funds from The Million Coin Campaign, Cash Conquers Cold effort — Haywood Christian Ministry, Mountain Projects and the Haywood Emergency Christian Shelter  — removed $3,582 when winter heating and emergency shelter funds ran low.

The Wednesday harvest which emptied the entire contents of the box nearly filled 17 5-gallon buckets and represented about 279,000 coins, said Noralyn Grindstaff, the Champion Credit Union marketing manager who coordinated the counting effort.

"It went much better than what I thought it would go because the (coin counting) machines are so finicky," Grindstaff said, "but none of the machines broke down, and there were so many volunteers there."

Waynesville Police Department officers transported the buckets to three credit union locations for counting. At the Champion Credit Union location in Canton, about 93,000 coins were run through the counting machine. Though no coin number totals were available at Champion's Waynesville location or the WNC Credit Union, Grindstaff said tripling that amount would be a fair estimate of the total number collected.

While it took nearly two years to collect the coins, the box was emptied within half an hour. Running the machines through the coin counters took until mid-afternoon though.

"I feel like I've been through a marathon," said Mountain Projects Executive Director Patsy Dowling after spending hours transferring coins from buckets into the Champion coin counter.

While the 270,000 coins gathered were a far cry from the 1 million sought, the organizations were thrilled with the outcome.

"We're helping people now with infrared heaters, disconnect notices and providing heating oil for seniors," Dowling said. "This is really needed."

Lisa James, Haywood Christian Ministry executive director, said the board hasn't yet decided how the funds will be used, but said her recommendation will be to buy infrared heaters and blankets.

Nick Honerkamp, who heads the Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter effort, said the funds will be especially helpful since the present shelter being used during the winter months won't be available next year and new plans must be made.

"This will be extremely helpful for our efforts," he said of the funds raised through the coin campaign.

In the five hours Honerkamp spent keeping the coin counter running Wednesday, he found currency from 27 different countries, something he said shows that visitors helped support the effort, as well.

The large coin container was made possible with help from Clark and Leatherwood Construction, Blue Ridge Glass and A to Z Signs. Ron Leatherwood designed the box to hold 1 million coins and the company built the box. Bob Morris of Blue Ridge Glass provided plexi-glass that would withstand the force of a baseball being hurled at 90 miles an hour and Joan Barnes of A to Z Signs used the campaign logo to create signs.

The Waynesville Fire Department conducted a boot drive last year that netted over $3,700 for the campaign, and Waynesville officials allowed the box to be located in their municipal building lobby. Dozens of school classes, churches, business owners and individuals helped with the effort. The Mountaineer provided publicity for the effort.

Champion Credit Union, which has counting machines in Waynesville and Canton, WNC Community Credit Union in Waynesville and State Employees Credit Union in Clyde all offered the use of their coin counting machines at no charge to help the community. The State Employees Credit Union machine was out of order Wednesday, however.

Grindstaff, who organized the counting effort twice — once earlier in the month when a major snowstorm struck — said now that the first coin campaign has been completed, many of challenges have been figured out.

"It was definitely worth it for the money," she said. "It was really effortless up to this point and then it was a half a day's work."
James said she was pleasantly surprised with the amount of money raised.

"It was a really good effort and went really well," she said. "I think we can take what we learned from this and build on it."