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State Honoree

Maria Cruz

Puerto Rico

conducted a penny drive that collected nearly 2 million pennies – more than $18,000 – for United Way in his area over a two-month period. In a class assignment, Matthew was asked by his teacher to draw a picture of a wish he would like granted. He drew a picture of himself giving money to the poor. After the assignment, Matthew wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper asking readers for suggestions as to how he could help those less fortunate. He received several responses, one suggesting that he collect dimes. He liked the idea, but thought a penny drive would be more fun. With the help of family members, friends and the United Way, Matthew placed close to 800 collection jars throughout his city, and a “wishing well” at a local shopping mall. They wrote letters to businesses and local civic groups. Matthew had hoped to collect a million pennies, but ended up with 1,819,691 ($18,196.91). “I knew my project would help a lot of poor people have food, clothes and a place to stay,” said Matthew. “I learned you can do anything you set your mind to.” Matthew received many calls with questions as to how other families could conduct a similar drive in their communities, so Matthew’s parents developed a “How To” manual and a local Internet company created an Internet website ( on his program.