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CHRISTMAS PENNIES FOR PENCILS


Brooke burst into the front door, brushing snow flakes from her dark hair. She unzipped her jacket and tossed it onto a chair before racing to the kitchen where her grandmother, Cindy, was busy making her fabulous chocolate chip cookies.

Brooke's brown eyes looked sad as she told Cindy about her school day. "Grandma, did you know that some kids have to learn to read and do their lessons while sitting outside? And, sometimes it's so cold and they have to sit on the ground."

Cindy finished measuring the flour into a cup. "Yes," she said, nodding. "I think you are talking about the children who live in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Brooke leaned down to pat Iris, their dog. "Yeah, I remember that's where it is. Sometimes they don't even have a teacher. But a really nice man is helping them by building schools."

Cindy smiled as she added the rest of the dark chocolate chips to the batter. "I just finished reading a book about him. His name is Greg Mortenson and the book is Three Cups of Tea. In his book, he tells about building his first school in Pakistan."

"His mother, who was the principal at Westside Elementary School in River Falls, Wisconsin, asked him to give a slide show telling about the children in Pakistan. He was having trouble getting money to build a school and wanted everyone to see the need."

The electric mixer swirled around, mixing the chips into the creamy batter, while Iris sat nearby, hoping some of the batter might whirl onto the floor.

"Anyway, as you might have learned today, the students in Wisconsin couldn't believe that children in Pakistan didn't have a building where they could hold classes. They decided to do something to help."

"I know, I know," Brooke said, twirling around. "They brought pennies to school and put them in huge trash cans."

Cindy switched off the mixer and hugged Brooke. "Oh, what a good memory. Where we live, a penny doesn't buy much, but in impoverished countries, a penny can buy a pencil and lots and lots of pennies can buy a school. I was so amazed at how much the students collected, that I wrote it down." She picked up her little notebook and flipped through the pages.

"Oh, here it is. They collected 62,345 pennies and Mr. Mortenson's mother sent a check to him for $623.45. He used it towards building his first school. It became a way to help educate children and the Pennies for Peace Program was formed. Because of it, a countless number of children can learn."

Brooke looked thoughtful. "I want to help," she said. "May I use that old coffee can that's in the garage to collect pennies?"

Cindy hugged her granddaughter. "Let me finish making the cookies and I'll help you get it. I'm sure it will need to be washed. It will be a nice container, but we'll have to get the principal's permission before you can take the can to school and he will need to get instructions from the Central Asia Institute to know how to send the pennies."

"Well," Brooke said, with a mischievous smile, "I can make the can, anyway, and show our principal."

Cindy laughed. "I looked at the Pennies for Peace website and there are pictures on it of the children. You can cover the can with butcher paper and print out and cut and glue pictures on it.

"I can't wait to do it," Brooke said, tossing a dog biscuit to Iris. "I'm going to talk to my friends and ask them to give me pennies for Christmas so I can collect a lot," she paused, smelling the delicious aroma of freshly-baked cookies.

Cindy grinned, "Why don't we have a cookie before we do the penny can?"

Brooke twirled over to her grandmother and gave her a hug. "Oh, yes," she exclaimed. "They are the yummiest cookies ever!"

Thank you, Joan, for all your stories. We love you and our readers will miss you!

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