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Lots of charities love pennies

There was a time when Sharon Bass was so sick of pennies that she wouldn't pick up one that was on the ground.

Bass, a clerk in the traffic section of the St. Lucie County, Fla., Clerk's Office, was on the job one day when a disgruntled driver paid his traffic ticket.

The fellow had been nabbed for speeding and driving with an expired tag. He was fined $1,050; a sum he called "ridiculous." He decided to pay it with pennies -- 2,100 penny rolls, to be precise.

"We were all in shock," says Bass, who had to double count the pennies. "I had never seen anyone pay their fine with pennies."

Paying a fine is one way to get rid of pennies. But there are better ways to put pennies, or any other coins you've been tossing in the penny jar, to use.

Many charities depend heavily on spare change.

Mark Weller, of Americans for Common Cents, says pennies may seem insignificant, but they add up.

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"We did an accounting study with many corporations. At 7-Eleven, they found that one-third of all the money they collected in those little receptacles on the counter was pennies. They do $3 million a year through the receptacles; that means $1 million in pennies. A Salvation Army kettle drive took in $7,000 in pennies in an eight-day drive."

There are thousands of penny drives throughout the United States. Of course, they're more than happy to accept other spare change, too. You won't need to sort or roll the coins; they're more than happy to do that for you.

So, the next time you're wondering how to get rid of all that loose change, spend a few minutes checking with local schools, churches and charities and you'll find a way.

And it will probably make you feel a lot better than dumping it on a clerk's desk to pay a traffic ticket.

-- Posted: June 17, 2003
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