Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

On behalf of all those helped, thanks, Mike

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We lost a local angel last week, one whose initiative helped many people in our community.

Mike Ward, a former editor at this newspaper, died. He was 77.

How to donate:


THERE are giant collection bins inside all of our city's Walmart stores. Look for the bin near the front entrance featuring a photo of a winged me with my two daughters.

Our giant penny is again on the second floor of Portage Place facing Edmonton Court.

There is a bin at the Winnipeg Free Press at 1355 Mountain Ave., and a smaller one at the News Café at 237 McDermot Ave.

Cheques can be sent to Pennies from Heaven, c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Tax receipts will be issued.

Jensen Nursery, at 2550 McGillivray Blvd., is now a drop-off location. As well, it is donating $2 for every tree sold and $1 for every wreath sold to our campaign. Call 204-488-5042 for more information.

Desjardins Funeral Chapel -- which helped us earlier this year -- is also now a drop-off location. They're at 357 Rue Des Meurons.


In memory of Dick McCullough

In memory of Stefan and Dora Olafson

In honour of Norma MacDonell's 100th birthday

Elizbeth Alton in memory of husband, son, daughter

In memory of Brian J. Hyslop

Cornelius and Heather Joy Schenkeveld

In memory of Leslie McKay

Sheila Byers

Leslie and Craig English

Bertha Gatchell

Ruth Smith

Brian and June Croxford

Russell and Irene Reichert

Patricia Ozechowsky

Allan and Colette Aussant

Bonnie and Gerald Walters

Alan and Sheila Wolf

Debbie Cottrell

Janet E. Nicholson

J. MacMorran

Evelyn Howard

Dwayne F. Kinnaird

Judith Hladiuk

Ken Rech Landscape Architects Inc.

In memory of Gwen Wilcock

Les and Carole Robinson

Seymour and Ruth Blackadar

Audrey Dobbs

Nancy Latocki

Alice Dubowec

Yvette A. Clarke

Elizabeth Cappie

David Green

Chris and Karen Coyston

Rene and Michele Bouchard

But while Ward earned his living writing and editing stories for decades, his legacy in the years since his retirement, and now after his passing, has been this annual fundraiser.

You see, 19 years ago this holiday season, the Christmas Cheer Board was hurting. The annual campaign to help provide a Christmas hamper filled with food and presents to people who couldn't otherwise afford it, was facing hard times. There was a chance not everyone who needed one would receive a hamper.

Ward, a columnist at the time, thought about the penny, how many people thought it was a currency so valueless, they wouldn't pick it up if they saw one on a sidewalk.

But Ward knew if you put thousands of those coins together, they became substantial bills. And he came up with a name for the new campaign: Pennies from Heaven.

The first year, generous readers deluged the newspaper with more than $5,000 in pennies. Since then -- with the angel wings passed to Gordon Sinclair, then Lindor Reynolds, and then myself -- kids, students, teachers, and other adults have been donating pennies, silver, folding bills, and cheques to the point that we crossed the threshold of $1 million raised a couple of years ago.

How's that for a useless piece of currency?

I remember when I contacted Ward by phone during my first campaign in 2007, at his home in Winnipeg Beach, he said he would be willing to submit a guest column. In fact, he was tickled that I had thought to include him in the campaign that he started.

Through the last few years either I would contact Ward or, like last year, a column would suddenly arrive in my email inbox before I even had a chance to contact him.

This year, after launching the campaign and writing a second column about looking for a new name, I planned to call him this week. I was going to tell him that 19 years after he used them, we had found two of his original large glass jars, still bearing the fundraiser's name, tucked away in a vault inside the Free Press.

Sadly, I never got the chance.

But the campaign Ward started, even when it gets a new name, is something that will live on. That's because the need for the fundraiser is still there. Thousands of people still need help from the Christmas Cheer Board at this time of year. Thousands of people still need help the rest of the year from Winnipeg Harvest.

And Ward was prescient. In his first guest column when I was wearing the wings he talked about the day when pennies would be abolished by the federal government.

"Just imagine when the year comes that all of Canada has been cleaned out of pennies. Imagine that. Of course, we can then go to five-cent pieces!"

On behalf of the thousands of people who have been helped through the years, all because one editor saw a need in our community, there are only two words I can say: Thanks, Mike.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2013 A13


Updated on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 1:07 PM CST: fixed headline

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