Ochoco first-grader collects pennies for toys

by: MICHELLE BERTALOT/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Ochoco Elementary first-grader Ilda Nunez shows off her collection of pennies she has accumulated so far. She is collecting pennies to buy toys for less fortunate children.

Ilda Nunez, a shy first grade student at Ochoco Elementary, is proof that one person can make a difference in another person's life.
   In November, the seven-year-old girl approached Principal Jan Boles with the idea of doing a penny drive at the school.
   "I wanted to do something for people who don't have toys so they could buy them in the store," said Nunez.
   Boles rounded up jars to place in classrooms and they quickly filled with pennies.
   So far, the school has filled two large jars with pennies and is starting to fill a small pencil box.
   The student said it makes her happy to see the two jars filled to the brim with pennies.
   Although the penny drive was started for Ochoco students to participate in, Boles encourages the public to stop by with pennies.
   "A kindergartener told his grandmother about it and she brought in four sacks of pennies she had collected," said Boles.
   Fifth graders at Ochoco are also seeking donations for a canned food drive.
   The money and canned food will be donated to the "Time for Caring" a canned food and toy drive.
   The drive started about four years ago and is sponsored by the Crook County Sheriff's Department, Prineville Police Department, the D.A.R.E. program, Crooked River Elementary, Ochoco Elementary, Crook County Search and Rescue, and Erickson's Sentry market.
   "I think that Ilda is a good role model for our citizens in our community," Officer Brandon Smith said.
   In 2000, "Time for Caring" helped five families, and in 2002, the program helped about 30 families, according to Smith.
   "This year our hopes are to take care of five families and three elderly households. What happens is we meet our goal and take care of a lot more. We set our goal to something we can achieve," said Smith.
   The program surprises Crook County families with a free cooked meal on on Christmas Eve, toys for the children, canned goods, and gift certificates for local merchants.
   "These are cases recommended to us by schools or officers out in the field who see situations where families need help. A lot of times the family is not even asking for it," said Smith.
   "We just appreciate all the support in the community and anyone wanting to make contribution can do so through the sheriff's office," he continued.