Penny Box

A sad little picture. Two neglected children clinging to hope, sits on the front of this Penny Box – it states, “please put one penny a week in this box and a small additional offering on Festivals and Holidays. Please help The Waifs and Strays.”

Back in the 1880s, when my belly rumbled louder than a Dartmoor storm. Alice was my name. I was like a shadow then, flitting through alleys, all ribs and rags, begging for scraps.

Then, came a glimmer of hope. Two brothers, the Rudolfs, barely teenagers themselves, opened their hearts – and a children’s home in 1871. Not much that first house, but a having roof over our heads and bellies full for the first time felt like a palace. They called it “The Waifs and Strays Society,” a name as humble as its beginnings.

Penny by penny, dropped into the very box you now see made the society grow. Each clink, a prayer answered, a child saved. By 1882, the first waifs found shelter. Nine years later, 35 homes dotted the land, and “country cottages” offered foster care. In 1893, a longer, grander name arrived, but the mission remained: to be a haven for the forgotten.

By 1905, there were 93 homes, 3,410 children safe within their walls. My guess is our box arrived around 1910, proudly boasting about 109 homes. We weren’t just fed and clothed; we learned to read, write, dream of futures beyond scavenging.

In 1982, “The Children’s Society” took the helm, no longer running homes but fighting alongside us in courts, schools, and streets. Our voices, once lost in the wind, now singing together in chorus.

So, when you see a child in need, remember the penny box and the power of small acts of kindness. Every penny, every helping hand, whispers a story of hope. Don’t let another child become a forgotten shadow. For within each lost soul lies a story waiting to be written, a life waiting to be saved.

Listen closely to the box, or any box you encounter collecting for children in need. Do you hear it? The echoes of laughter, the silent gratitude of countless children saved. It’s my story, a story that continues, thanks to the kindness woven into that simple wooden box, and the countless others like it scattered around the world. Remember, even the gift can change a life. Be the reason a child’s story whispers hope, not despair.