More than 200 seniors have collected 2,500 pennies to donate to the Fuel Fund of Maryland, a nonprofit organization that assists state residents with their energy needs.
“Our main job is to help people get through the winter and summer without losing their utility service or their source of heat,” said Mary Ellen Vanni, executive director of the Fuel Fund of Maryland. “Our folks have incomes of about $1,300 a month for a family of three, and about a quarter of that income goes to energy bills, so they really need us. Imagine if you had to pay 25 percent of your income towards energy. That’s what they are dealing with.”
Basilica Place Service Coordinator Donnet Lawrence was on Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.’s Web site when inspiration struck. After seeing a page about Penny Round Up, an option for BGE customers to round up their monthly payment to the nearest dollar with the extra money going to the Fuel Fund, Lawrence decided Basilica could do something too.
“A lot of my residents here do get energy assistance and help from the Fuel Fund,” Lawrence said. “I decided that we could start collecting pennies. I put out a big pretzel bottle and did some advertising in our newsletter.”
Lawrence said she was impressed by the response from the residents and even some outside folks. “My pretzel bottle is just about full.”
Frances Urban has been a resident at Basilica Place for about eight years and is a recipient of the Fuel Fund herself. “If I don’t donate, I don’t get back,” she said. “When many pennies go together, they make dollars. It’s just a nice thing to do.”
While their original goal was to raise 2,500 pennies, the residents have now increased their goal to 5,000.
“I’m very touched by the fact that the residents at Basilica Place have not just donated their spare change, but are actively collecting money,” Vanni said. “They are conscious of it all the time, of how they can find more pennies for the cause.