There's no other way of saying this -- I'm a worried angel.
With just three more days until Christmas, I'm worried that our donations are down in our annual Pennies from Heaven campaign.
Every year, whenever anyone asks me how our campaign is going, I have a stock answer: I'm blissfully unaware because the bulk of our campaign relies on anonymous children and adults donating coins, and it takes us weeks to roll and count them.
But this year was different from the beginning of our campaign. In fact, even before it began.
It started when the federal government announced earlier this year that the penny was soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history.
At the time, I thought we were going to have a banner year in collecting pennies for our campaign to help more than 19,000 individuals and families get a Christmas hamper through the Christmas Cheer Board, to say nothing of the thousands per month who would be hungry if not for the efforts of Winnipeg Harvest.
But then a strange thing happened: A coin that was seen as useless by everyone suddenly took on great value.
Many other worthy charities came forward in recent months to also ask for pennies to go their way.
It's a tough time for all charities and fundraisers, but the friendly Cheer Board elves who go around the city emptying our collection bins are saying our coin donations appear to be down dramatically, in fact, by about half.
Maybe I haven't mentioned often enough people should go inside Walmart stores with their coffee cans and other containers filled with pennies to find our bin near the front bearing a poster of myself and my daughters. You can't help if you don't go inside. Maybe I should mention Walmart more. Maybe I should just say Walmart, Walmart and Walmart.
Maybe I should also say RBC, RBC and RBC as well as Portage Place, Portage Place and Portage Place more as well.
Without these coins that grow into dollars, there could be people out there who won't get a hamper at this festive time of year. No turkey, no fixings, and no presents.
And they could still be hungry after the Christmas season.
We have giant bins in each of our local Walmarts and a giant penny at Portage Place, along with smaller bins in all local RBC branches, just waiting for coins that we can convert into Christmas hampers through the Cheer Board and into food for Winnipeg Harvest, both for its individuals clients and the larger entities it supplies food to, such as Siloam Mission and the Salvation Army.
If you stick a cheque in the bin, rest assured you will get a tax receipt from one of our charitable partners.
But because of how I believe donations are going, there's one big change in a campaign that relies on donations of change.
You're probably wondering why I haven't announced the winners of this year's draw for RBC Olympians, a Ben Moss-supplied Canadian Ice diamond pendant or concert tickets in this space. There's a reason for that -- we're continuing the contest for two more weeks.
Earlier in this year's campaign, I picked up whatever flu was going through the community, so our contest started two weeks later than normal.
Because I can see that the ballots coming in have been gathering steam in the last few days, I have decided to extend the contest and draw the ballots on Jan. 4 at noon. This gives you more time to send in original ballots like the one beside this column.
As far as I can see, the biggest beneficiaries of this change are our local hungry, because many of you have been taking my gentle nudge to heart and putting in a donation for our campaign.
Please help turn this worried angel into a happy angel by helping the hungry.
How to donate
There are giant collection bins inside all of our city's Walmart stores. Look for the bin near the front featuring a winged me with my two daughters.
All RBC branches in the city have our collection bins.
Our giant penny is once 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.
Our generous donors
A tip of the angel wings to these generous donors:
In memory of Brian J. Hyslop
In memory of C. Burton Stewart and Vida Stewart
In memory of Alex Logan
Canada Revenue Agency - Weston - No. 201
Manitoba Association of Sheet Metal and Air Handling Contractors Inc.
Basar Heating and A.C. Ltd.
East Side Ventilation Ltd.
Great West Ventilation Inc.
Industrial Ventilation Inc.
Pellaers Ventilation Inc.
VentAir Industries Ltd.
Ken Krueger - Brock White
Kevin Nomme - Midwest Engineering
David McNeil - Emco Wholesale Heating
Rick McMillan - Ecco Heating Supplies
Mark Windeatt - Engineered Air
Iris and Walter Magura
Adele and Murray Wooden
Walter and Eugenia Sahan
Lorna and Lorne Stevens
Linda and Vaughan Cochrane
Evelyn and Richard Howard