Every two weeks, Bill Panther collects money from cash boxes at 25 locations across Iowa City. Over time, the change he collected has definitely added up. Over the course of three years, he collected almost $30,000 on behalf of The Crisis Center.
Bill has been a volunteer for partner organization Table to Table for 10 years and also volunteered in the Crisis Center’s food bank warehouse. But he wanted to broaden his impact and volunteer in a way that was more meaningful to him. “He came up with a great project and made it happen,” said Bill’s brother Steve, who is also a Crisis Center volunteer and donor. “It’s his way of contributing.” Steve said he’s completed Bill’s cash box route three or four times when he was out of town.
Bill placed his first box at Hamburg Inn No. 2 in 2014. He was optimistic but assumed interest would wane over time. It didn’t. Months into the project, the change was still rolling in.
“After a while I thought, ‘Maybe we’ve got something here,’” Bill said.
Bill considers himself very fortunate: he’s lived in Iowa City his whole life, lucked out occasionally, experiences no health issues aside from minor aches and pains, and has always been able to support his family. That’s why he decided he wanted to give back to The Crisis Center in addition to his own personal financial contributions by distributing and collecting cash boxes on a regular basis. Bill said he chooses to give to The Crisis Center because it’s local, he knows the money is spent wisely, and client need is growing.
For Bill, the reason is simple enough. He can give and therefore feels he should. “I get a kick out of it,” he said. “I feel like it’s a part of me.”
A year into his project, Bill’s brother Marty died by suicide. He began to think of his cash box project as a way to honor his brother and help those who might be suffering from suicidal thoughts by helping to provide for 24-Hour Crisis Line and Chat services.
All along the way, Bill said he’s been struck by the business owners’ generosity—many of whom have been in on the project for all three years. He was also impressed by the people of Johnson County for consistently sharing their spare change, and even a few 5, 10, and 20 dollar bills when they spot one of the boxes at the checkout. He gives the business owners and donors all the credit for the project.
“The bottom line is, people continue to give.” Bill said. “As long as the boxes are getting filled, I’m going to keep doing this.”