FOLEY -- Students at St. John's Area School in Foley collected over 80 pounds of pennies to help a local non-profit raise money for homeless veterans.

The organization Bootstrap Comrades has made it their goal to raise 1,000,000 pennies by the end of March to buy Bags of Love (backpacks with clothes and hygiene products) for homeless veterans in the state.

"They were excited and happy to help others," says kindergarten teacher Karen Thorsten. "It was just really neat to see."

The students' giving spirit was evident in nine-year-old Vince -- who collected over 2,000 pennies, and eight-year-old Maya and six-year-old Marnie -- who asked for pennies instead of presents for their birthdays.

"To have kids say 'I don't want a birthday present, I want to help others' is amazing," Thorsten says.

"They're a very giving group, so I'm not surprised," says Katie Gales, the 3rd grade teacher at SJAS. "As a school, we're really good at giving back and I feel like they're very supportive of other things and not just the school -- it's pretty cool."

Julie Peterson, the Veterans Outreach Associate for Bootstrap Comrades, says over 10,000 people are homeless on a given night in Minnesota, and one-third of them are veterans.

If you want to contribute to the cause, penny collection jugs have been set up at the customer service counter in 27 Coborn's locations around the state.

St. John's Area School students. (Photo: Isaac Schweer, WJON)