Nystrom Elementary penny drive raises $1,900 for homeless

Nystrom Elementary penny drive raises $1,900 for homeless
(left to right) Rachel Porzig, vice principal of Nystrom Elementary, the Rev. Andre Shumake, and Kathleen Sullivan, executive director of GRIP. (Photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

A Richmond elementary school’s penny drive raised $1,900 for a local homeless shelter and services program.

On Tuesday, Rachel Porzig, vice principal at Nystrom Elementary at 230 Harbour Way South, and the Rev. Andre Shumake, site coordinator for a West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) program based at Nystrom, went to the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) headquarters to present the funds to GRIP Executive Director Kathleen Sullivan.

Porzig came up with the idea of a penny drive and this was the school’s second year doing one. The penny collections occurred pre-pandemic at the school over a period of four months.

“Our students in the fifth grade had been studying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Porzig said. “As a result of that they decided they wanted our penny-drive money going to an organization that focused on the right of providing houses for folks, so we found that GRIP served students at Nystrom and throughout Richmond.”

” I can remember seeing all of the Mason jars in the classrooms daily and the kids were all excited to put their pennies into those jars, knowing they were going to make a big difference by participating,” Rev. Shumake said.

Teaching children to give and to support the homeless “may be one of the most valuable lessons they will ever learn,” Sullivan said.

“Once we are able to re-open our GRIP doors, we will offer community service to our Nystrom students,” she said. “Our children learning to raise money and have empathy for the homeless and unsheltered communities GRIP services models a bright future. Giving value back to the penny was genius. $1,900 dollars is an amazing accomplishment.”

Sullivan added, “A school like Nystrom Elementary has such a rich history, it can teach those kids about the rich history of Richmond, the Kaiser shipyards, the Rosie the Riveters and the contribution of women to the City of Richmond.”