Debbie’s Pennies

My older sister, Debbie, died in 2007. Debbie was a special needs child. Although she lived long past doctors’ predictions to 2 weeks shy of her 58th birthday, Debbie had the mind of about an 8 year old child. 

Unable to walk from the age of 5, she lived for 32 years at St Ann’s Nursing Home in the tiny town of Panhandle, Texas. My younger sister and I literally grew up in the halls of St Ann’s where my mother went to work in order to be near Debbie most every day.

Debbie was – and still is – an angel. She had the most incredible smile and brought great joy to everyone who crossed her path. Although she often suffered great physical pain, Debbie never complained, but met every challenge with hope and heart and more love than I’ve ever seen in a human being.

Debbie collected pennies. All her life. Upon meeting anyone in the hall at St Ann’s, she would ask, stranger or no, for all the pennies you had in your pockets or purse. Never the “white money” – she didn’t like it and would refuse to take it – but she would clean you out of every penny you had – and poor you if you had no pennies to give her!  

Through the years, my mother would cash in Debbie’s pennies with which she bought things for Debbie that would otherwise have been difficult to afford — televisions and stereos, movies, clothing, gifts – even leg braces and down payments on wheelchairs were made with pennies. 

The power of Debbie’s pennies was great. I believe it still is.

Since she died, when my life is particularly difficult, when I am ill or afraid or missing her more than I think I can bear, pennies will appear – in parking lots, on office floors, on my desk, in the bottom of laundry baskets, in pockets I swore were empty. Because of Debbie, the phrase “Pennies from Heaven” has a very special meaning for me.

I have created a Facebook page called “Debbie’s Pennies” because I’ve thought of a way in which I would like to keep my sister’s spirit at work in the world and want to share that with as many people as possible.  

At the beginning of 2010, I placed in my office a large jar and labeled it “Debbie’s Pennies”.  I then asked co-workers and friends to put their pennies in this jar, hoping that by the time SKY camp (more about that later) preparations began in May, the jar would be full and Debbie’s Pennies could be used to make purchases for SKY. 

In less than two months, the jar was overflowing and Debbie’s Pennies have been transferred to the big green tub that you see in the photos here.  My co-workers and friends have been more than generous, even my patients have asked about Debbie’s Pennies and have begun to bring in zip lock baggies and half gallon tubs full of pennies and what I hoped might garner “some interest” has grabbed people by the heart — just as my wonderful sister always did.

My plan is to keep the tub filled with Debbie’s Pennies year round, so that each summer it can be emptied to buy supplies for SKY Camp, the grief camp for children at which I counsel each year.  SKY is a wondrous, healing place, so full of the spirit of my sister, that I cannot imagine any better place for her pennies to go.

So, I am here to ask you to join Debbie and me in collecting pennies for SKY Camp.  Already, there are Debbie’s Pennies jars in two states other than Texas — I am hoping that the Facebook page will bring about even more. 

Debbie and I would be honoured if you would add your pennies to ours– those in the bottom of your purse or your desk or the floorboard of your car – just one or two pennies here and there. But remember, pennies only – no “white money”.  😉 

Put a Debbie’s Pennies jar on your desk or in your car and watch the magic happen — it will — and then please post stories and photos on Facebook so that we may all see. 

I will be creating a PayPal account specifically for Debbie’s Pennies to make it as easy as possible for you to transfer your pennies to SKY sometime in late May.  I will also be posting updates so that you can see how the pennies grow.

Please share this page with your friends and families — if the poodle in a tin-foil hat can get more fans than Glen Beck, surely Debbie’s Pennies can too!

Thank you for letting me know you were here.

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