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30 years of collecting pennies adds up

by Nancy Hamlett, Staff Writer

When Bill Cook delivered an accumulation of 30 years worth of penny collecting to the Douglas County Senior Center to add to the 2-by-4 Building Fund drive, he wheeled the donation into the center on a hand truck.

“It’s surprising how much a bunch of pennies weighs,” said Cook. “My wife, Chris, and I started saving pennies in the 1970s and every once in a while she would count them with the grandkids. The last count was 14,000 pennies.”

Garry den Heyer, organizer of the drive, said that the senior citizens of Douglas County hope to have a new center within five years, even if they have to build it one board at a time.

“If each person in the county donated $2, the cost of one 2-by-4, we could build it,” said den Heyer. “That’s where the idea of the penny drive came from. Two hundred pennies buys one 2-by-4. It doesn’t seem impossible when you put it that way.”

It’s no secret that the current center on Meadow Lane is overcrowded, said den Heyer. Built in 1977, the dining area was designed to accommodate 126 people. The kitchen staff serves at least that many people on a daily basis.

“We prepare 245 meals a day, including dining room meals, congregate dining at Topaz Ranch Estates, Meals on Wheels and frozen meals for the outlying areas,” said senior services director Warren Bottino. “Some days we have to put the dining room overflow in another room.”

“Sure, it’s too small,” said den Heyer. “The population in Douglas County is growing, not persons with children, but members of the elderly coalition. Last year, our numbers increased by 6 percent, and that number is going to keep rising. Eventually, we will all get here (the senior center). We might as well make it comfortable.”

Den Heyer and other volunteers set up a donation area at the senior center where people can drop change into a container.

“If we ask the county commissioners for money, they’ll ask, what for? They don’t have the money,” said den Heyer. “So we’re stepping up and we’ll involve the public at a small pace. Then we can say to the county commissioners, this is what we did.”

When the collection jar is full, den Heyer estimates that it will hold $400.

“We need 25 of these jars. Then we can pay for a new senior center,” said den Heyer. “We started the campaign two weeks ago, and look at the response we’ve had already. This is something we can do.”

Bottino is encouraged by the early support for the building fund.

“We envision this as a total community effort,” said Bottino. “We have to get the word out that a larger center is needed to meet our needs and what can be done to help.”

Donations for the 2-by-4 Building Fund can be dropped off at the senior center at 2300 Meadow Lane in Gardnerville. The center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Donations can also be sent to Young at Heart Building Fund, P.O. Box 218, Minden, 89423, attention: Senior Center.

“Our seniors are energetic and active, and it’s important that we provide the facilities for their activities,” said Bottino. “The 2-by-4 Building Fund is our good faith gesture. We’re making the first step.”

For more information about the 2-by-4 Building Fund or senior services, contact Bottino at 782-8267.