Pennies From Heaven’s yearly mission wraps up

By Randy Bartley

Christmas came early for dozens of children Dec. 12 when “Pennies from Heaven” distributed gifts at the Zion Church outside Clarion.

“Pennies from Heaven offers more than Christmas presents,” said director Renee Vowinckel.

Vowinckel explained items offered to the less fortunate include blankets, clothes, hats and gloves, socks, underwear, books, coloring books and crayons, games, toys, laundry detergent, hygiene items and wrapping paper and tape.

And, the need in Clarion County has been growing.

“In 2017 we served about 248 families and in 2018 we served 276 people in 134 families,” said Vowinckel. “This year we have 265 kids signed up and registered and about 125 families which about the same as last year.”

This year’s totals would have been larger but about 40 children were rejected because they were already on other charity lists in Clarion County such as Charitable Deeds, Vowinckel said.

“We changed Pennies from Heaven to a working program,” said Vowinckel. “So many people who work don’t qualify for so many other programs and this helps them. All they have to do is show us a pay stub that proves they are working. A lot of times people who work are just over the income limit to receive help with heat or other things.”

Walmart employee Gretchen Wile has been actively involved with Pennies from Heaven for the past 23 years and actively involved for the past five years.

She said Walmart has a program that rewards employee volunteer hours with a monetary donation from Walmart.

“I love interacting with the community and helping those in need,” Wile said. “This is one way I can help out.”

“My family always told me to volunteer,” said Clarion-Limestone elementary teacher Alyssa Swartzfager. “When I was asked last year if I wanted to participate I did and I loved it. My principal arranged for a substitute for me and here I am.”

Clarion University student Tiffany Jones felt this was her way to “give back to the community.”

The event has been held at Zion Church for nine years, and the church allows the organization to store the gifts throughout the year.

“Renee and her team have done this for a long time. They do a great job of gathering goods that meet the needs of parents in the area,” said state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63), who served as a volunteer shopper’s helper.

Founded in 1995, Pennies From Heaven arose from a dream to help children in need experience the joy of receiving Christmas gifts.

Pennies From Heaven is non-profit 501 (c)3 organization.

Pennies From Heaven, a member of the United Way, works in conjunction with Children and Youth Services and Community Action as a way to make sure that every child is able to receive a gift for the holidays.

Since its inception, Pennies From Heaven has become a recognized charitable organization and has become incorporated with its own board of directors. It has grown from serving 40 children to more than 400.

All money and items donated go directly to children of Clarion County.

“Pennies From Heaven” can be found Facebook.