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PHS students collecting change for food pantry

As part of a community service project, two seniors at Perham High School are collecting money for The Bridge, the Perham area food shelf.

Janie Wunderlich and Elizabeth Sonnenberg were brainstorming for a project, a requirement for their English class, when they thought about the food shelf.

"We thought about how could help," Janie, a PHS basketball player said. "We knew collections during March Food Share Month was matched and when we met with John (Bridge director), he said he can stretch the money farther."

"I think it's very, very encouraging to see young folks doing this for the community," said John Leikness, executive director of The Bridge, formerly known as the Perham Area Food Shelf.

"They are very self-motivated, and the energy they put into it is very refreshing."

March is Food Share month which means donations are partially matched by Minnesota Food Share, a state organization that gets its contributions from large corporations and churches, he said. It then distributes that money to the 300 food shelves around the state based on what each collected in March.

"We receive almost a third of our entire annual donations in one month," Leikness said. "The more we collect, the larger our share."

The girls decided to use canisters located at about eight locations in grocery stores and banks in Perham and nearby communities in their Change for a Change collection campaign. They plan to collect money from the canisters weekly.

The girls will reuse canisters that were used for a previous fundraiser with a note attached signifying the purpose of the change collection, Elizabeth said.

The motto of the project, according to Janie, is "Improving our Community One Penny at a Time." They tried to find a way to get the word "penny" into the motto, just so people knew that even a little money donated can make a difference, but came up with the Change for a Change and liked it.

"People don't have to give a large amount of money," Janie said. "Even a giving a little adds up and makes an impact in the community."

The girls hope the canisters can be placed so that people will throw their change in the containers for the food shelf rather than in a purse or pocket. They expected to place the canisters in Dent, Richville, Vergas, Ottertail and Perham last weekend. The campaign will run through the month of March

Being it's the first time either Janie or Elizabeth have tried this project, they are unsure what to expect in terms of donations so they haven't really set any collection goals, Janie said.

"John told us The Bridge raises about $35,000 in March each year," she said. "We don't know how it's going to go; we hope we can raise maybe $2,000 more."