Coins to be converted to cash on Jan. 28

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 14, 2014
Carson Phillips came the closest to guessing the number of coins in a small bottle during the last coin guessing event.

Even though last week’s cold snap is now just a memory, the heating crisis it created is not over — high electric bills are on the horizon.

Patsy Dowling, executive director of Mountain Projects, Inc., said power bills for January’s cold snap will start arriving in February, and for some, disconnect notices will appear in March.

That’s why a Jan. 28 effort to cash in the coins collected in a box that’s 60 inches long, 40 inches deep and 24 inches wide will make a difference. The Million Coin Campaign: Cash Conquers Cold campaign was started two years ago when community leaders were worried winter heating fund would fall short.

The effort to gather 1 million coins at a single location was viewed as a way everyone in the community could help out, whether it was by contributing a few coins in their pocket, or coffee cans full of them.

The community has met the challenge, and so far, about $3,600 in $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills dropped in the box have been removed and split by three participating agencies dedicated to keeping people warm in the winter — Haywood Christian Ministry, Mountain Projects and the Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter.

The campaign will come to an end on Jan. 28 when the Waynesville Police Department, along with other volunteers, will transport the coins to the three credit unions in the county where the coins will be counted through the institutions’ coin counting machines.

Once counted Champion Credit Union, which has counting machines in Waynesville and Canton, WNC Community Credit Union in Waynesville and State Employees Credit Union in Clyde will write checks for the full amount of the coins processed through their machines.

“It takes a lot of time to process that much coin,” said Noralyn Grindstaff, Champion Credit Union marketing and communications manager. “We estimate there will be between 60 to 70 bags.”

Grindstaff, who has been heading up the effort to convert the coins to cash, called the coin counting machines “finicky creatures that are a blessing when they work.”

That’s why Champion Credit Union called every financial institution in the county to ask if they would help count the coins.

It turns out only the credit unions are the only financial institutions that have these machines. The commercial machines in grocery stores take a percentage of the funds counted, and organizers wanted all funds to go toward the ultimate goal of providing long- and short-term solutions to keeping people warm during the winter months.

Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said helping transport the coins to the counties sites is a natural for the department.

“We’ve been in the middle of this thing since it started because it’s in our lobby,” Hollingsed said, noting he will have four officers on the task until it is complete. “This is a good thing. I just met with someone living in a place where he can’t afford to purchase heat. We go on calls and find kids in places that need heat, so this is a good project.”

Coins can be dropped off at the collection site up until the campaign's end.

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