Pennies for Peace "Kickoff" event a success

Frigid temperatures didn't stop 53 people from attending the Friday night presentation on "Pennies for Peace" and Greg Mortenson's best-selling book, "Three Cups of Tea."

Christiane Leitinger presented a slide show describing how Mortenson's misadventures following his attempted climb of K2, the 2nd tallest mountain in the world, led to his promise to help build a school in a remote village in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan. After selling everything he owned -- literally! -- to raise money to return to fulfill his promise, Mortenson attempted to raise funds by writing to every famous person he could think of, and by applying for grants. Hundreds of letter later, he had received only one response -- Tom Brokaw sent him a check for $100 and wished him luck.

But then a group of schoolchildren heard about what he was doing and began collecting pennies -- 62,342 pennies. Adults finally started taking notice of what Mortenson was trying to do, and more funds were raised.

That initial school was finally built, and another 63 have been built in rugged areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan by Mortenson's non-profit organization, Central Asia Institute (CAI).

Meanwhile, here in Montrose, people attending our kickoff event sponsored by Altrusa donated in excess of $660 to CAI. A small organization of students and teachers at Montrose High School are organizing to send high school students to teacher meetings and to classrooms at the high school as well as middle and elementary schools to talk about Pennies for Peace.

In the week following the kickoff presentation, we have been contacted by a church group and a club supporting a major political party, as well as a number of individuals interested in knowing how they can become involved in Pennies for Peace.

It is our hope that more and more adults and children in our region will hear about Pennies for Peace, and will want to find a way to learn more about helping people in the troubled regions of Central Asia to obtain an education and to build school at a time and one penny at a time.