Haven Lutheran shows the power of a dollar

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, just feed one.” Mother Teresa said that.
One local congregation might tweak that statement a bit: “If you can’t give a hundred dollars, just give one.”
Because if people keep giving a dollar, you’ll soon have a hundred. And before long, a thousand. And a thousand dollars can feed and care for a lot of people.
On Thursday, Gail Kimball of Haven Lutheran Church presented $1,034 — all in one-dollar bills — to Rowan Helping Ministries’ executive director, Kyna Foster.
It might have been more dramatic if the bills had been pulled out of a briefcase, but Kimball had them tucked into a glass cookie jar.
The money came from a project Haven embarked on through Lent, she says.
It was her idea for the congregation to save one-dollar bills to donate to Rowan Helping Ministries. Kimball was on the board of Rowan Helping Ministries for six years, so she is well aware of its ongoing needs.
But Kimball didn’t want just any dollar bills. She urged the congregation to collect “F” series bills.
The first letter of the serial number on a one-dollar bill indicates which Federal Reserve Bank the bill originated from. For example, the “A” series bills come from Boston and the “L” series bills come from San Francisco.
Gail chose the “F” series because, she says, because it stands for faith — and since the bills originate in Atlanta, they’re fairly plentiful around here.
“Since cash is sometimes the one thing a non-profit needs most, this small group felt we might make a difference for guests and clients at RHM,” Kimball said.
Kimball says she got the idea about a year ago from some church members in the Cooleemee area who were planning a community center and decided to raise money by collecting dollar bills.
The enthusiasm and eager participation that immediately marked the project surprised Kimball. Young Julianne Peele begged to be able to donate the very first bill, and then it was off to the races.
Not only did church members get on board, friends and acquaintances began to participate as well.
The children of the church eagerly collected F bills and would stuff them into an old-fashioned glass cookie jar at the back of the church, Kimball said.
She used a poster as a visual aid to help the congregation keep track of how much had been collected.
Her original unstated goal was to collect $500, Kimball says, since Haven Lutheran has only about 50 members.
That “secret” goal was met by March. With a whole month to go and no signs that giving was slowing down, Kimball bumped the secret goal up to $1,000. By Mother’s Day, that had been exceeded.
“It was painless,” Kimball says, “and there was a lot of joy in it.
“It was a real exercise in giving for the congregation,” she said, noting that every Sunday people would be eager to share their dollar-finding stories with her.
Kimball says that the church’s interim pastor, Ed Harper, along with his wife, Faye, were very generous. Kimball’s friend Dot Foil brought the project to her walking group,which also contributed. Children, including Evan Mahaley and Kalie Edwards, were particularly enthusiastic supporters, Kimball said, and Barbara Setzer contributed almost daily with change from going out to breakfast with Kimball.
Strangers in a restaurant even donated bills after overhearing church members Mike and Aggie Penninger discussing the project.
“It’s such a cool idea, and there’s so much energy behind it,” Foster said as she accepted the gift on behalf of RHM. “It’s a wonderful fundraising idea. I would love for that idea to be shared.”
Foster notes that this time of year, donations drop off at RHM, so she’s particularly grateful for such a gift at this time.
“We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the churches in our community,” she said.
Foster said that the money donated would go toward crisis assistance.