Every penny (and nickel, dime and quarter) helps

When Community Service Programs' Huntington Beach Youth Shelter finishes its twice-annual fundraiser this month, it will be rewarded with a small, lightweight paper check.

That will be a reward for two reasons — one, because the organizers hope to raise more than $10,000, and two, because it would be hard to lug around that amount in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

For the last two months, the shelter next to the Huntington Beach Central Library has distributed containers around town and invited schools, businesses and families to gather change for its programs. At the shelter's annual reception and open house June 14, the organizers plan to pour all the coins into a massive heap on the lawn, then have Orange County's Credit Union count the proceeds and write an equivalent check.

"We will bring it all together and spread it on the lawn that day," said Elsa Greenfield, the shelter's program director. "It has been our way of not only raising money, but giving an opportunity for the community to be involved. Anybody can throw change in a bottle and help us."

More than two dozen groups around Orange County have joined the Change for Change drive this year, including the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, the Meadowlark Golf Club and Curves.

Hyatt General Manager Cheryl Phelps said the resort has set a water jug by the employee entrance for the last month and done "piggy bank runs" every Friday to solicit change from staffers. The Hyatt, she said, has participated in every Change for Change fundraiser to date.

"It's a simple thing, but believe me, it goes a long, long way," Phelps said.

The money goes to a number of shelter needs, including food, utility bills, therapy sessions and school supplies, Greenfield said. The shelter has housed more than 500 boys and girls aged 11 to 17 since it reopened five years ago, reuniting 88% of them with their families.

According to Greenfield, teens arrive at the shelter for a variety of reasons — some because they've fled unstable homes, others because their parents are incarcerated or in the hospital. In some cases, she said, teens have checked in after their families have lost their homes due to the recession.

The June 14 event will start with lunch and an awards presentation, with the Rapacz family, the Hyatt and Police Chief Ken Small honored for their contributions to the shelter. Afterward, the organizers plan to make the change pile on the lawn, with the credit union expected to declare the final amount the next day.

When visitors arrive, the lawn will be dotted with about 50 containers for last-minute donations.

"Anybody who wants to get rid of their change, we'll take it," Greenfield said.

If You Go

What: Fifth Anniversary Reception & Open House

Where: Community Service Programs' Huntington Beach Youth Shelter, 7291 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach

When: Noon to 3 p.m. June 14

Cost: Free, but donations requested

Information: (714) 842-6600

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