I.S. 218 Students Collect Pennies to Sponsor Speakers Bureau for Homeless

The Report | June 1995

When it came time for the students of Ms. Jennifer Archibald’s a Special Education Teacher in the Community Service Academy, to pick a subject for a project, her students at I.S. 218, didn’t have to look far. They looked across the street from the school and saw the homeless, sprawled upon the benches that line the wall of Ft. Tryon Park along Broadway. But the project they chose was unique and for a cause that was inspirational.

They decided to collect pennies. They would collect from family and friends and scour the streets for the stray pennies that people feel is beneath their dignity to bend down and pick up. They called this project “Penny Harvest”.

As part of the program, they also had to learn about the homeless. They read books on the subject, visited housing that gets homeless off the streets by offering them an apartment of their own, the kids also visited homeless shelters and learned about this approach to get the homeless off the streets.

Well, they collected, and collected and collected. They collected about $400. Now, where did they go from there? First, the money was taken to a downtown office of Chemical Bank to be counted. After the kids received a check, they donated it to a worthy cause – a cause that they felt would help the homeless.

On the roof garden of the rehabilitated Hotel Rio, 10 Ft. Washington Avenue, an edifice that has been turned into an apartment building to offer affordable living for the homeless and those with very low income, a simple ceremony was held to transfer the check.

Ellen Baxter, the director of the Coalition for the Homeless, accepted the check. It will be used to fund a “speakers bureau,” made up of formerly homeless persons, who will tell the community what homelessness is really about.

Ms. Baxter along with Dagmaris Cabezas, have been instrumental in acquiring abandoned buildings and turning them into efficiency apartments. The Coalition for the Homeless is in the process of building a planned apartment tower over a portion the 168th Street Armory.

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