Pennies find new purpose to honor veterans at Heron Pond Elementary in Milford

MILFORD – Whether they’re shiny and new or old and bent, they’re not much wanted. They clutter up change purses and the tops of dressers. When they fall to the ground they usually stay there. But humble pennies get new respect at Heron Pond Elementary School.

From now until May, students are collecting coins so they can help send veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., through Honor Flight New England, a nonprofit organization that honors America’s veterans. The trips cost $400 per veteran, and over the last four years, the students have adopted 10 veterans for Honor Flight to send to D.C.

The project got its start in 2009 by three school employees, all retired now. Jane Pratt was Principal Peter Bonaccorsi’s secretary, Carol Malony was the food service manager and Janice Coburn was the assistant principal.

Pratt decorated the big red, white and blue jar where the coins are kept.

On Tuesday, Nov. 12, cardboard containers were placed in the individual classrooms, and each day, they are emptied into the big jar, which is locked up at night.

“We even had a UPS driver” donate, Bonaccorsi said. “It’s really developed into a tradition and the kids embrace it.”

He called the project “a small way to repay” the veterans.

The trips to Washington are at no cost to the veterans, and top priority goes to World War II survivors or veterans of any war who are terminally ill.

As part of the school’s Veterans Day celebration, the students created a Veterans Wall. Stars were given out to all the children, who dedicate them to family and friends who are active or retired members of the military.

“We cut out the stars and they take them home and decorate them,” Bonaccorsi said.

Some of the veterans came to the school’s three assemblies on Friday, Nov. 8, to honor veterans and local emergency service personnel.