Piggy bank theft sparks flood of donations

Children's cash was to help orphans at sister school in Africa

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2005

ANCHORAGE - A flood of donations brought more than $1,600 to replace about $200 stolen from a papier-mache piggy bank that students at an Anchorage elementary school were collecting for orphans at a sister school in Africa.

Money poured into Tyson Elementary School after news spread about the theft over the weekend.

The remains of the pig, amid broken classroom window glass, were discovered Monday.

"I was amazed at the number of calls I got," said school nurse Ruth Nighswander, who coordinates Tyson's contributions to the Malawi Children's Village fund.

The donations included a $300 check from an institution that Nighswander would not identify as well as $500 each from Carpenters Local 1281 and Wells Fargo Bank.

"The kids have enough problems. When they try to do something right, you need to make it whole," said Royce Rock, the carpenters' business manager. "They're seeing that, by them starting something, it turns into something really big in the community."

Tuesday's mail brought three $20 bills to the sixth-grade students of teacher Misty Circle. They had assembled the piggy bank from paper, gauze and glue and had been its keepers.

Accompanying the $60 was a note card addressed to the sixth-graders. It read in part:

"We are very sad that one person stole the money you had collected. We hope that you keep up the good work nevertheless and won't let one bad thing stop you. ... And thank you for teaching all of Anchorage to think of others!"

The pig had stood on the broad sill beneath the windows of Circle's classroom. The thief or thieves broke through the window and removed the bank. They tore open its underside outside the classroom and ran off with the change.

"I think it's really rude for them to steal it, because it took a lot of time for us to work on the pig," said 11-year-old Mou Thao, one of Circle's students.

School officials suspect an inside job. Anchorage police are investigating. Nighswander and Circle each are offering $25 for information leading to identification of the culprit.

Tyson and two other Anchorage schools are supporting Malawi Children's Village, a program to clothe, feed and educate about 3,200 children orphaned by AIDS in several dozen villages in the south African nation of 12 million.

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