Common Cents was started in 1998 by philanthropist Louise Gartner. Louise, who passed away this year at age 96, watched the program blossom and take shape with support from the Dallas Independent School District. Currently, her daughter Gigi Gartner directs the program.
Common Cents is known best for its inception of Pennies from the Heart, a student-driven educational program offered through the Dallas ISD. The goal of Pennies from the Heart Campaign is to teach students philanthropy by enabling them to play an active role in raising money for their communities. The program provides a forum for students to identify community needs, plan and organize coin collection fundraising activities, and then review and fund grant applications from non-profits. the forum is conducted in a round table format comprised of a teacher sponsor and up to six students. On average, 36 schools, 50 sponsors, and 200 students participate each year.
Each school year, the fundraiser begins with a Fall Kick-Off . It was covered in 2008 by Clarice Tinsley, Anchor for Fox 4 News. The coin collection drive ends in December. Checks are presented to the selected non-profit organizations in the Spring.
By taking part in the Pennies from the Heart Campaign, students learn philanthropy, fundraising, leadership skills, enriches their lives and better prepares them for the future. To date, more than $850,000 has been distributed to area non-profits through this program and over 70 scholarships have been awarded to students. Every year up to two High School Juniors and Seniors who participate in Common Cents may receive scholarships of $3,000 each to a college or trade school of their choice.
Donations made to Common Cents support the student scholarship fund as well as student fundraising activities. One-hundred percent of funds raised by students go directly to non-profit organizations. All donations are tax deductible through the Communities Foundation of Texas, a 501c3 non-profit organization. Click here to donate to the Common Cents program.