Pennies from Heaven will be ‘different this year’

Christmas will come early this year for dozens of families in the Clarion area on Dec. 10. That is the day that gifts will be distributed by volunteers of the charitable organization Pennies from Heaven.

Pennies from Heaven, Clarion is a 501(c)(3) organization. For nine years it has distributed items to the working poor in Clarion County.

“It is definitely going to be different this year,” said volunteer coordinator Renee Vowinckel.

In past years the families were guided by a volunteer through various rooms in the Zion Church where they could select gifts.

“This year they will just stay in their cars,” said Vowinckel. “Our volunteers will put the bags in the car. We will know ahead of time what they are looking for. When we did registration this year we did ask questions about what they would like.”

Due to the COVID pandemic, the volunteer staff was reduced and, in some cases, reassigned.

“We knocked down the number of volunteers because of corona,” she said. “In August I had people telling me they were worried about it. There may be 10 or 12 of us working to get the bags ready.”

“Since we won’t be doing food the guys who usually work the kitchen will be doing parking lot duty,” said Vowinckel. “We have walkie-talkies that we can use to direct the traffic because it will be one way around the church.”

The number of children registered to receive gifts has decreased this year.

“We just have about 125 kids right now. That is way down. We have had an uptick in calls this past week. I think people realized the deadline is approaching,” she said.

“We will be taking applications through Monday,” said Vowinckel.

The number to call to register is (814) 226-4785, Ext. 107.

The impact of the virus on donations is not known yet.

“Donations usually come in around the beginning of December so we don’t know what the impact of the COVID virus will be,” said Vowinckel.

She said monetary donations are always welcome.

“Walmart gives us discounts on things we buy there and it helps our dollars go further,” she said.

Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 222, Clarion. Material donations may be dropped off at Community Action any time.

Pennies from Heaven doesn’t just gift toys.

“We offer blankets, clothes, hats and gloves, socks, underwear, books, coloring books and crayons, games, toys, laundry detergent, hygiene items and wrapping paper and tape,” said Vowinckel.

The distribution will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 10 at the Zion Church. The church is located south of Clarion on Route 68.

“It is going to be challenging but a challenge we enjoy,” said Vowinckel.