The Penny Story: A Worthy Cause
When the topic of human trafficking comes up, many conversations about what seems to be a distant and hopeless situation often grow quiet. This is not the case, however, when talking to Kendall Altmyer ’13. Her face lights up with passion as she shares a story of hope. She points to the copper penny bracelet stamped with the word “Worthy” and penny tattoo inked on her arm as she shares the emotional stories of women she worked with who suffered from this treacherous crime. Kendall is the face behind the Penny Story. The inception of the Penny Story began in the fall of 2012 when Kendall took a class on human trafficking at Southeastern University with Professor Pat Manzo. In the class, Professor Manzo compared pennies to victims of human trafficking — both trampled on, forgotten and often deemed worthless.
“I knew I would never see a penny in the same way again. I would find pennies on El Prado (the campus walkway). I would find them everywhere. I have become infatuated with the fact that there is a penny lying on the ground. All I can think about are all of the girls and boys that are victims. It is the second-largest criminal industry,” said Kendall. Kendall filled jars with all the pennies she found. Each time she would pick one up, she would say a prayer for those trapped in human trafficking. Kendall’s friends eventually gave her the suggestion of making jewelry out of the pennies she collected. However, without a knack for making jewelry, Kendall held onto that suggestion without knowing where to take it.
A year later, after she completed her bachelor’s degree, Kendall still had a desire to work with human trafficking victims and interned in Thessalonika, Greece, with the A21 Campaign. The A21 Campaign was started by Christine Caine as a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking around the world. During Kendall’s time there, she established relationships with and cared for the girls who were rescued.
One afternoon, Kendall arrived back to her room in Greece to find a package that was sent from her hometown in Alabama. Kendall’s friend Sara Beth Chambers had stamped the word “Worthy” onto a penny and created a bracelet out of it. Sara Beth had also made 10 penny bracelets that she sold at a football game, with all the proceeds given to the A21 Campaign. The Penny Story started to unfold. “I started praying, ‘Lord, if this penny had a voice, it could change the face of human trafficking.’ I never prayed for me to be the voice of the penny; I just prayed the Lord would give the penny a voice somehow, someday,’’ said Kendall.
While working with the A21 Campaign in Greece, Kendall had the opportunity to meet Sandy Jobe, the mother of the Grammy-nominated Christian singer Kari Jobe. After Kendall poured out her passion for the Penny Story, Sandy invited her to a conference in Texas with the opportunity to sell the bracelet at Kari’s booth. Kari fell in love with the idea and asked Kendall if she could help by selling the bracelets. For months, Kari had been praying for a way she could support Christine Caine’s ministry, and she felt this was the way to do it. They sold over 13,000 penny bracelets, with all funds going to the A21 Campaign.
What started as the dream of an SEU student has led to a national movement to support the fight against human trafficking. The Penny Story was featured in a documentary by Southeastern, called Common Cents. The documentary won the Gold Award at the Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival. SEU Worship, Southeastern’s worship team, also released a single, called “Worthy,” with all the profits going to the A21 Campaign. Through both the documentary’s release and the worship song, Southeastern was able to raise more than $7,000.
“I have wanted to tell this story for a long time. It’s an honor. It’s not my dream but God’s,” Kendall said.
For more information about the Penny Story, visit thepennystory.com.