Posted on Fri, Jan 13, 2017
1 Million Pennies Collected - Congratulations Steve Agler
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Toledo Blade Article:
Guided by the philosophy that good people doing wonderful but strange things makes a great story, I was drawn to Steve Agler’s quest for a million pennies.
Mr. Agler, who lives in Rossford, has been collecting, counting, sorting, wrapping, and lugging pennies to the bank for 28 years now on behalf of the United Methodist Church of Rossford, and next Sunday will mark a milestone.
Sunday’s service will include a presentation by fellow church member Larry Perkins, who will hand Mr. Agler the one-millionth penny. You can be sure much applause will ensue.
Mr. Agler, who is known in Rossford as the “Penny Man,” began collecting pennies in 1989 as a way for the church to donate to Heifer International, a charity which provides farm animals to families in Third World countries.
Who knew when we wrote about Heifer International here a month ago that a local church was on the verge of making history?
The effort has endured as a tribute to the late Dianne Benson, the wife of the church’s minister at the time, the Rev. John Benson. After she lost her battle with leukemia, Mr. Agler embraced her memory as inspiration, and he’s been hauling pennies to the bank ever since.
In those early days, the church’s nine Sunday School classes competed to see which could bring in the most pennies. “The winning class got a donut party, I think,” he says.
Mr. Agler learned the hard way not to let the pennies pile up before taking them to the bank. He had a wheelbarrow full of them the first year. That’s a lot of counting and wrapping.
Now, whenever he reaches $1,000 in pennies, Mr. Agler writes a check to Heifer International and somewhere two more cows have found a new home.
If all this sounds vaguely familiar, my fellow Blade retiree, Judy Tarjanyi, wrote about the church’s penny campaign many years ago. Mr. Agler can’t recall the year, but he says he was at about 275,000 pennies at the time. I could do the math, but my head would hurt.
Speaking of math, I wondered just how much 1 million pennies would weigh if Mr. Agler had kept them in the church basement all these years.
Old pennies minted before 1982 weighed about 3.1 grams each. They were 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. Today’s pennies are basically copper-plated zinc: 97.6 percent zinc and 2.4 percent copper, and weigh about 2.5 grams.
But even if all 1 million pennies were the newer, lighter kind, we’re talking some serious heavy lifting.
A million of them, at 2.5 grams each, would weigh 2,500 kilograms, or about 5,511 pounds. The calculator tells me that’s about 2.5 tons.
You probably don’t own an 18-wheeler (I sold mine; the neighbors complained), but I’m told that the federal Department of Transportation sets a limit of about 40 tons of carrying capacity for the big semi-rigs.
Mr. Agler would probably need to rent out a portion of a semi-rig to haul his pennies, and it’s a safe bet that Fifth Third Bank, which is handling the account, would have been less than thrilled to see an 18-wheeler pull up at the drive-through.
Millions of Americans don’t know what to do with pennies anymore, so they toss their unwanted little “coppers” into a jar. Mr. Agler and United Methodist look at them as gold nuggets and don’t care how they arrive.
One guy brought in a cardboard box full of them recently. Sometimes it’s a shoebox, sometimes it’s a piggy bank.
Mr. Agler recalls the night about five years ago when he and the church discovered the desperation that can motivate individuals down on their luck. A man was captured on the church video camera grabbing 2,000 pennies from the room where they are counted.
“The guy had hidden in the church until everybody had gone for the night,” Mr. Agler recalls. “We figured he must have needed them more than we did.”
Informed of the theft, donors quickly stepped up and contributed more than double the amount lost. That’s Christian charity.
So what happens when the million-penny threshold has been crossed? If it were me I’d never want to see a penny again.
For Mr. Agler, the beat goes on. He’ll keep on collecting them, partly because somebody somewhere still needs a cow and partly because he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he quit.
The Penny Man is 65 years old now, but he can still hoist a bag of pennies over the counter at the bank.
Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His radio commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. duringn “All Things Considered” on WGTE-FM 91. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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