It’s January 4th, and for many of us, it means back to reality after the long holiday season! For SFTL, it means introducing you to all the new and exciting things we have planned for 2016. Today, we are thrilled to introduce our new series, Monday Motivators. Our Monday Motivators, like our Fit List women who we share with you each Wednesday, inspire us with their passion, drive and determination to make a difference in the world. We think you’ll find this a great way to start your week feeling confident about all that you can achieve!
Our first Monday Motivator is Kendall Altmyer, founder of The Penny Story:
Think much about pennies? They’re kind of worthless, right? Annoying? Take up room in your wallet, and what do you really need them for anyway?
Kendall Altmyer will change the way you think about those pennies forever. The founder of The Penny Story proudly represents “a tiny piece of paradise on the beach called Gulf Shores, Alabama.” She is a current graduate student at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, pursuing a degree in Professional Counseling. She is also involved with the SEU department of the First Year Experience, and she is using pennies and her own incredible creativity to fight human trafficking.
Kendall shares with SFTL;
“Aside from my academic pursuits and my job, The Penny Movement has become a major part of my life. The simple, copper, “worthless” coin has become a symbol of worthiness, hope, and restoration in the fight against trafficking. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in 2013, I took an internship with the A21 Campaign in Thessaloniki, Greece. I worked with girls rescued out of trafficking in Eastern Europe. From this experience, the Penny bracelet and Penny movement was birthed. My life now exists to tell the Penny’s story and bring hope and restoration to women throughout the world.” “I am on a mission to bring life and worthiness to those who have been deemed unworthy of life.”
SFTL interviewed Kendall, who answered the following questions:
How did your philanthropy begin?
In the Fall of 2013, I lived in Thessaloniki, Greece, working with girls rescued out of trafficking. I was an intern for the A21 Campaign (www.a21.org), and I had no idea what I was getting into when I moved to Greece. My everyday “job” (and joy) was working with the girls, tending to their needs, and taking care of them as a mother would tend to her kids. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
Copper coins that I would find on the ground became real live human beings that I was quickly falling in love with. I knew I couldn’t move back to America and just assimilate back into normal life. While I was living in Greece, the Penny bracelet was made by some of my friends to symbolize the worthiness of the girls I worked with. People at home in Alabama loved the bracelet, so we started selling them and giving the proceeds to A21. Before I knew it, thousands of bracelets were being sold and the Penny had a voice of her own!
Enlighten us, why did you pick the Penny?
I first heard the Penny’s story during a class at SEU. The course was Human Trafficking in America, and the professor asked us if we had ever considered how pennies were comparable to victims of human trafficking. Pennies are essentially worthless, cheap, disposable, stepped on, and stepped over. The victims of human trafficking are also treated as worthless, cheap, and disposable. Pennies are everywhere – on the ground, under couches, on top of gas station countertops – but we don’t notice them. The crime of trafficking is everywhere, but it is so ingrained into our society that we can’t see it. It is invisible, but it is everywhere.
When I heard the symbolism of the Penny, I knew I would never see a Penny the same way again. From that moment in class 3 years ago to today, when I find a Penny on the ground, I get so excited. I cannot explain the excitement. My feet stop moving, my thoughts stop rolling, my mouth stops talking, and all I can think about is how that Penny symbolizes one of the 27 million victims, just laying on the ground, invisible to the people who had walked over it. I pick up the Penny, and ask God to think of one of his 27 million children in captivity and then I pray for that one. The prayers are simple, but the compassion in my heart is overwhelming. I was completely confident those pennies and their story had the capacity to change the world of trafficking. I just had no idea I’d be part of the story.
Has there been a particular human trafficking victim that you have met/encountered that inspired you to start The Penny Story?
I have many stories close to my heart that I could share, but it wasn’t one girl or story in particular that was a catalyst to launching The Penny Story. It was the overall experience in Greece, living and working with the girls that motivated us to make the first Penny bracelet and give the Penny a voice.
What was the hardest thing about getting started?
Before having a manufacturer and distributor, it was a challenge to make and package Penny bracelets when there was a big order. We could handle making and packaging 20-30 bracelets by hand, but when we had an order for 2,000 bracelets and no manufacturer or distributer, we didn’t know what to do! Thankfully many people rallied around us and we had “Penny parties” where groups of people would come over and package Penny bracelets in little assembly lines all over our house.
Does your major have any relation to the Penny Story?
Yes, it does. I studied psychology with hopes of counseling women and girls who had experienced abuse of any type, and when I learned about human trafficking, my focus of counseling narrowed to girls rescued out of trafficking situations.
You are a young founder and trying to make a big impact. Is it ever a challenge to be taken seriously? What do you do to overcome that?
What a great question! Yes, I am confronted with this often. I don’t know if it is my youth as much as it is my southern, sweet demeanor. I have a strong southern accent, I am rather “girly” in my appearance (I’m all about makeup and big hair), and I seem to just not be taken seriously sometimes. I remember the first time I met with one of The Penny Story lawyers. I told the receptionist I was Kendall Altmyer here for Will (the lawyer). Clearly shocked, she looked at me over her cat eye glasses and said, “You’re Kendall?” I just smiled and said, “Yes ma’am, I am Kendall,” and took a seat. I used to be bothered by getting that reaction, but I have come to embrace my “sweetness.” The Lord created me with this sweet demeanor, and I have stopped trying to work against it. Embrace who you are!
What are your tips for other young Philanthropists for being taken seriously?
Your age and possibly other qualities will automatically discount you to some people. This is a given, so we might as well expect it. Work hard to not let yourself get offended by this, and use it as a catalyst to run harder towards your goal.
When you have a tough day, what do you do to keep your game face on? What do you do to regroup and get back to a better place?
ME time. This means either working out or getting alone to journal and read. I keep a list of activities I enjoy, so I can easily turn to that when it has been a hard day.
Also, people can suck the energy right out of us! I work hard to store up energy for the day, and being intentional about what I spend that energy on helps keep the tough days at a minimum.
Kendall also adds that her hobbies and interests include: working out, eating clean, coffee, cats, the outdoors, and just people. “I love people, all kinds of people.”
What’s on the horizon for your company? What’s next?
Well, I am constantly in a dreaming state of mind. When we first made the Penny bracelet, my hope was that the Penny would have a voice and its story would travel around the world. That is being answered! I am hoping The Penny Story and the Penny documentary will continue to travel around the world and make a difference in the world of trafficking.
My heart is set on another goal for the Penny now that the first one is in motion. Pennies aren’t just comparable to victims of human trafficking, but we, as women trying to rise up in leadership, are often treated as the pennies are treated. I would love to see the Penny’s story expand to touch the hearts of women, to encourage and empower them to be all they dream they can be.
What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you?
I love the heart and mission of She’s Fit to Lead! When I heard the purpose of She’s Fit to Lead, I immediately connected it to the Penny’s story. She’s Fit to Lead is on a mission to unleash women’s inner strength and connect us to empower each other, and I see the Penny doing the same in hearts of women. I strongly believe in the power of women uniting together under one mission to change the world.
Kendall shared a fun fact about The Penny Movement with SFTL:
“In 14 months over 13,000 Penny bracelets have been manufactured and made their way around America, Europe, and Australia. It is crazy how something so “worthless” is connecting and empowering women around the world. This is only the beginning!”
To learn more about Kendall and The Penny Movement visit:
To support A21 and purchase your own Penny Bracelet click here
Common Cents Video Documentary: https://vimeo.com/138125158
Read More By Ximena:
Are you a Monday Motivator? Want us to feature your story? Know someone we should feature? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.