Leave a penny take a penny

Alisha Morrissey
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Long-time volunteer retires after rolling $30,000 worth of pennies

The old adage offers a penny for your thoughts, but for the last 20 years, Ann Rice has been saying it's more thoughtful to give a penny.

Rice sits at her dining room table, rolling 50 pennies into a coin roller, faster than you can say "donation." She laughs when she explains that one of her many nieces once bought her a machine that did the rolling for her. She's faster than the machine, she says, poking in the ends of the roll.

Ann Rice rolls pennies at her dining room table. - Photo by Alisha Morrissey/The Telegram

The old adage offers a penny for your thoughts, but for the last 20 years, Ann Rice has been saying it's more thoughtful to give a penny.

Rice sits at her dining room table, rolling 50 pennies into a coin roller, faster than you can say "donation." She laughs when she explains that one of her many nieces once bought her a machine that did the rolling for her. She's faster than the machine, she says, poking in the ends of the roll.

Nearly $50 in rolled pennies sits on the table in a heap, wrapped in rubber bands.

Last donation

On top of the pile sit several cheques made out by store clerks and others who wanted to give the last donation to Rice's penny cans.

"I never could have done it without them," Rice said of all the people who were willing to put cans on their counters in shops and businesses all around St. John's.

In 20 years since her retirement, Rice has worked for several charities, raising more than $30,000 for local organizations herself.

Now 83, Rice says she's uncertain as to what she'll do when she gets into her new apartment, just up the street from one of her nieces.

"I suppose I'll go up there and do her dishes," she says, pride in her voice when she explains that her niece is a nurse.

"I'll cook for them and clean up."

Rice beams when she talks about any of her 26 nieces and nephews, 34 grandnieces and grandnephews, and 20 great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews.

"They call me the cookie lady," she says, offering plates of baked goods, her only other hobby aside from rolling the pennies.

Rice says she always wanted to have fun when she was a young girl and that's why she never settled down with a husband and children of her own.

After working for the American military in Labrador, and then with the provincial Department of Transportation until her retirement in 1989, Rice said she was bored and decided to volunteer to pass the time.

One of her relatives suffered from spina bifida, so Rice started fundraising for the organization.

She felt she could help more by volunteering for the Janeway, so she started there.

Then Rice took on a fundraising campaign for multiple sclerosis. By that time, she was "full of arthritis" and started collecting pennies in boxes and cans left on shop counters, and rolling them for donations.

She says rolling the pennies helped with her arthritis and passed the time. She then decided to start collecting for the arthritis society.

Inside her apartment, Rice has no trouble getting around, but she admits she's trapped inside for much of the winter and has a hard time going up and down the stairs, regardless of the time of year.

So, in the last five years alone, Rice raised more than $10,000 for the arthritis society.

She says she was the top fundraiser for the annual Jingle Bell Walk, raising more than $3,300, despite not walking herself.

On the brink of her second retirement, Rice proves she doesn't know how to stop.

She says perhaps she'll continue to roll the pennies for the arthritis society, but she's really done with collecting them.

"Sometimes, I'll say I've got to give it up, but I can't."

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Transportation

Geographic location: St. John's, Labrador

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  • Frances
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    What a wonderful story - thank you Ms. Rice for your endless generosity!!
    My dad is a retired senior and three mornings a week he volunteers his time and takes a resident of a local senior's home to church. He also delivers communion to people who can't get out to church. People ask him if he is ever bored. His answer is there's not enough hours in the day . Thanks Dad and Ms. Rice and to all the seniors out there lending a helping hand.

  • Bill
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Thank you Ms. Rice. I always wondered who took the money from those little cans/boxes. I usually throw all my pennies in them as they (pennies) just seem to add weight to my wallet. So Fantastic people like you do all the heavy lifting by rolling the things and then taking them to the charities. That is so great of you! Thanks again!

  • liz
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Thanks Ms. Rice, your selflessness is heartwarming.

  • Tiffany
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Thank you for posting this story! I love hearing how our retired senior citizens pass their time and especially how they give so much of theirselves and expect nothing back in return. Good work Ms. Rice! You're generousity, I'm sure, has helped hundreds (if not thousands) of people with the funds you have raised. Thank you!

  • Frances
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    What a wonderful story - thank you Ms. Rice for your endless generosity!!
    My dad is a retired senior and three mornings a week he volunteers his time and takes a resident of a local senior's home to church. He also delivers communion to people who can't get out to church. People ask him if he is ever bored. His answer is there's not enough hours in the day . Thanks Dad and Ms. Rice and to all the seniors out there lending a helping hand.

  • Bill
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Thank you Ms. Rice. I always wondered who took the money from those little cans/boxes. I usually throw all my pennies in them as they (pennies) just seem to add weight to my wallet. So Fantastic people like you do all the heavy lifting by rolling the things and then taking them to the charities. That is so great of you! Thanks again!

  • liz
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Thanks Ms. Rice, your selflessness is heartwarming.

  • Tiffany
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Thank you for posting this story! I love hearing how our retired senior citizens pass their time and especially how they give so much of theirselves and expect nothing back in return. Good work Ms. Rice! You're generousity, I'm sure, has helped hundreds (if not thousands) of people with the funds you have raised. Thank you!