Coins for Christmas

Rimrock Elementary School students walk past the board tracking the money raised by the Coins for Christmas campaign.

The Coins for Christmas drive has kicked off at more than 100 eastern Idaho schools, with students gathering money to provide shoes for kids who cannot afford them.

East Idaho Credit Union started the campaign to provide new shoes to east Idaho students in 1987. The credit union is contacted by school counselors and social workers throughout the year about students in need. For the past few years, they’ve had enough success with Coins for Christmas and the summer golf tournament at Idaho Falls Country Club to fill those requests whenever they come in.

“You have some kids who don’t go outside because they don’t have shoes,” said Toby Hayes, vice president of marketing at East Idaho Credit Union. “Some of these kids have never had a brand new pair of shoes in their life, and it really brightens their day when we can do something as simple as that.”

In 2018 the credit union raised $23,000 through the winter coin drive and provided 1,500 pairs of shoes to children from Arco to Saint Anthony. There are 120 schools that will be participating in Coins for Christmas this year, with the addition of Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25.

Rimrock Elementary has been the top fundraiser in the Coins for Christmas campaign several times. Last year Principal Steven Cziep agreed to have himself be taped to a wall at the school if the students raised more than $3,500. They ended up collecting $4,300 in coins, which also won the students a trip to the movies for being the top-earning school in the region.

“It’s the outpouring of consideration that the community here is so good at. Christmas is the time to give and these families give,” Rimrock secretary Carol Arpke said.

Rimrock held the kickoff assembly for the drive Monday afternoon and watched a kickoff video from East Idaho Credit Union. Because of their success last year, Rimrock students and counselors were included in the video that was shown to all the participating schools.

“Truly the people that need to be recognized are the students and staff at the schools who raise the money,” credit union spokesman Chad Ostergar said during the film.

Selected students receive vouchers to pick up the shoes from the store, with students in rural areas getting additional money if the shoes need to be shipped to them. New shoes were provided by Payless ShoeSource in previous years, but the Shoe Dept. at Grand Teton Mall took over this year after Payless filed for bankruptcy in February.

The Coins for Christmas drive will continue at the schools through Dec. 16, giving East Idaho Credit Union time to announce the fundraising totals before the holiday break.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.