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Southland middle-schoolers win the (penny) war

Cousins Jeremy and Jach Kiefer doante thier change to the Penny War service project sponsored by the Southland Middle School Student Council. Last year the project raised $900 for the Toys for Tots program.

ADAMS — What a difference a day makes.

Donations to the Southland Middle School penny war were down from last year, said teacher Lynn Wempner, co-adviser of the student council.

"Times are tough," she said, "and our class sizes are smaller than they used to be. The kids are doing the best they can."

The annual penny war — a friendly competition between grades that raises money — ended Thursday, a week after it started. Middle schoolers will shop for toys on Monday. Now in its fourth year, the middle school fundraiser uses the money to buy toys for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. A preliminary total stood at about $530, a far cry from last year's $940.

Their counterparts in high school wrapped up their penny war earlier in the week. It's part of a charitable effort by many students in the district. The students had raised more than $600 as of Tuesday, but they are still accepting donations. They did their shopping this past week


Wempner and her co-adviser, math teacher Katie McIntyre, "really, really strive to teach the kids that it's not all about them," Wempner said. "We do about three or four community service projects each year. The kids know how important it is, especially living in a small community."

The projects include contributing to food shelves, the humane society, the Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army's personal care shelf and, of course, the penny war.

This year, they've also chosen to buy gifts for four children from the Angel Tree, a local charitable cause.

Chelsey Kasel, a sixth-grade student council member, said she often thinks "how the kids will feel when they see the toys."

Jared Landherr, also a sixth-grader, figured his grade would do well, but probably not win the war. That was fine, he said.

"I did it because there's a lot of kids that don't have toys, and it's not fair," Jared said. "My dad always says I'm a lucky kid."

Wempner praised the students' generosity.

"This (project) will hardly be over, and they'll ask, 'what's our next one?' This is our only money-based one," she said, "so we talk about the simple things that really, really make a difference."


Wempner shared her thoughts while McIntyre was at the bank counting Thursday's donations. When McIntyre returned, she sat at her desk for a few minutes — and several calculations — before she announced the total.

"Eight-hundred seventy-one dollars and eight cents," McIntyre exclaimed. "Wow."

"Really?" Wempner asked. "That's more than $335 dollars in one day. Just today."

Jared, it turns out, was right.

The eighth-grade class won; the seventh-graders just nudged out the sixth-graders.

Student council members will shop for the gifts from 10:30 a.m. till about noon Monday at Target in Austin.

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