Every Penny Counts

In 1987, a bartender on Polk Street, Fred Skau, saw how so many people in his community were living with HIV and AIDS and struggling just to get by so he put a pickle jar up on his bar with a sign asking for whatever change that can be spared to help people living with AIDS. Within the first month, $10,000 was raised. Within the first year, $100,000 was raised for AIDS Emergency Fund.  In over 31 years, making it the longest running fundraising project for AIDS Emergency Fund, a total of $3,206,405.53 was raised by jars in local businesses and schools.

Times have changed, more businesses are converting to cashless transactions. Banks no longer accept large amounts of coins. And schools have had to switch their focus to only doing fundraising for school supplies. So, the time has come say goodbye to this much-loved community program.

Over the years, up to 75 Bay Area businesses had penny jars on their counters and bars. In 1995, Every Penny Counts Program partnered with public schools to educate and involve Bay Area students from Pre-K to High school-aged in raising money and showing compassion and generosity to people in need. Since then, the schools raised over $325,000 to assist people with disabling HIV with paying their utility bills, doctor bills and rent.

One teacher from Ralston Middle School in Belmont said, “Ralston participated because it developed into a tradition, and the tradition has evolved because each year we saw how good it was for our students to be helping those in need in the Bay Area. Our students developed compassion and the ability to look past all the luxuries they have ant to make sacrifices. I would tell my students, it is impossible to feel lousy when you are doing good things for others.”

A student of James Lick Middle School in San Francisco shared, “In my opinion, Every Penny Counts fundraising means saving lives. The immediate funds to individuals in need can most likely mean the difference between life and death. I think that if everyone donates only a small amount, it will add up.”

AIDS Emergency Fund merged with Positive Resource Center and Baker Places to form PRC last year and continue to assist clients through emergency financial assistance, employment training and placement, housing stabilization funds, benefits counseling and equal access to healthcare programs for people with HIV/AIDS and mental health issues. Every Penny Counts Program continued to be about community, compassion and generosity.

Kelly Rivera-Hart, the outgoing program coordinator and a former client of AEF, commented, “To the businesses and the schools that helped fill the hundreds of penny jars over the years, thank you so much for your partnership. And to the anonymous individuals that faithfully, regularly reached into their pockets and stuffed a dollar or a twenty into the penny jars, you have my unending appreciation. I would also like to express our deep appreciation to the volunteers who have worked on Pennies for the last few years: Joe Czuberki, Ivan Holum, Lance Brittain, Joanie Juster, and Clare Kay.”

Kelly continued, “It’s the individuals, the regular people,  that make a change and this program showed how even a little spare change created such a big change in the lives of people with AIDS.”

Thank you to the merchants who have participated in the program

17th & Noe Market

Alexander Hamilton
American Legion Post 448

Alex Fitness

Aunt Charlie’s Lounge

B.A.R. (Bay Area Reporter)

Boston Properties

Castro Village Cleaners

Central YMCA


Community Thrift Store

Cove Café


EHDD Architects

Gallery Paul Anglim



Gino’s For Hair

Fitness SF – Castro

Hole In The Wall Saloon

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Martin Mass, MD

Moby Dick Bar

Mr. S Leather


Pilsner Inn

P O Plus

Puff N Stuff

Smoke Plus

Sojourn Properties

Spike’s Coffee & Tea

Sunset Stationers

TechSoup Global

The Cinch Bar

The Edge Bar

The Packaging Store


Twin Peaks Tavern

Viking Hair Styling

Walgreens – Castro

Wild Side West

Worn Out West

YP Holdings

Zephyr Real Estate –
West Portal

Zephyr Real Estate –
Market Street at Noe Street

Zephyr Real Estate –
California Street

We would like to give extra special thanks to the following Every Penny Counts volunteer posse members:

Kelly Rivera Hart, EPC Coordinator
Ivan Holum, School Campaign Associate
Joe Czuberki, Merchant Campaign Associate

In Their Own Words

“I am infinitely grateful for the speed, attention, and availability during my case. You are an excellent group and agency for those of us with medical conditions and mental health issues. Thank you very much!”

— PRC Client