The Penny Harvest is created and operated by Common Cents an educational institution that designs innovative school-based programs to foster ethical citizenship and student leadership. The Penny Harvest empowers children from preschool to high school–in every life circumstance–to become socially engaged philanthropists.
Each school year, students begin by launching a school-wide campaign to address community concerns by gathering idle pennies. Then, instead of Common Cents allocating the funds, the program places responsibility for grant-making entirely in student hands. A team of student leaders, known as the Philanthropy Roundtable, spends the winter debating community needs, investigating organizations, and deciding democratically how to best allocate their school’s collection. Throughout the spring, Roundtables leverage their philanthropic dollars to promote student volunteering in their neighborhood, as well as quality service-learning tied to the classroom curriculum. Finally, the year closes with citywide and school-based ceremonies designed to drive outcomes and sustain the program the following year.
Penny Harvest History
The Penny Harvest began in 1991 with a question from then 4-year old Nora Gross – “That man is cold. Why can’t we take him home?” She was referring to a homeless man she saw while walking on NYC’s Broadway with her father Teddy Gross, founder of Common Cents and the Penny Harvest.
That one question was the catalyst for what was to become the Penny Harvest program. Gross began “harvesting” in his building, “asking neighbors if they had any pennies, and how they would feel about giving them to the homeless.”
Penny Harvest Outcomes
The Penny Harvest performs well within schools in every neighborhood. Since the beginning, Penny Harvest students have allocated over $10.5 million in pennies, volunteered 47 million service hours, and awarded 25,105 community grants to help their neighborhoods.
Last year 246,932 youth participated, including 7,611 student leaders selected to represent their communities in Philanthropy Roundtables at 448 New York City schools.
2012: Lyndon B. Miller Citywide Daffodil Award
2009: Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA) Special Recognition for a successful Penny Harvest Awards