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March 7, 2001

First Lady Kicks Off "Pennies for Lincoln" Drive to Benefit Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

ALTAMONT -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today officially kicked off the "Pennies for Lincoln" campaign, which offers Illinois schoolchildren an opportunity to donate spare pennies to help construct the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

During a rally at Altamont Elementary School in Effingham County, the First Lady talked with more than 500 students, teachers and community members about "Pennies for Lincoln" and the importance of the Library and Museum project for Illinois.

"Last month, on Lincoln's 192nd birthday, we broke ground in Springfield near the Old State Capitol for the first portion of the Museum and Library," Mrs. Ryan said. "We're going to start building the walls, library shelves and exhibits very soon, and that's why your efforts to collect pennies are so important."

Through a partnership with the Illinois Bankers Association and local banks in every part of the state, school children will donate pennies and place them in special receptacles that have been distributed to every school and bank in Illinois. Later this spring, the receptacles will be collected and the donations tallied.

The "Pennies for Lincoln" packets distributed to schools also include several sample lessons that teachers can use to further the children's studies of history, art, creative writing and science. "Pennies for Lincoln" is designed to be interactive and an educational experience for students, teachers and their families.

"We have no idea how much we're going to collect through 'Pennies for Lincoln," but if the enthusiasm across the state is equal to what I've seen in Altamont, this program is going to be a boost for the Library and Museum," Mrs. Ryan added.

At Altamont Elementary School, students and teachers have built a life-size barometer to track their collections and have constructed "stovepipe hat" receptacles for each classroom. The school's junior high students are engaged in a contest to see who can collect the most coins. In Altamont, the program is co-sponsored by the Effingham State Bank.

All of the money raised by the "Pennies for Lincoln" campaign will be used to fund a portion of the museum called "Mrs. Lincoln's Attic" - a place where children can have fun and learn about the Lincoln family. "Mrs. Lincoln's Attic" will feature historic clothing for dress-up games, oversized "Lincoln Logs" and other toys, and a dollhouse modeled after Lincoln's Home in Springfield. The "attic" will also feature activities and displays about the way children lived, played and learned in the 1800's.

Mrs. Ryan also reminded the students that almost 60 years ago, Illinois schoolchildren donated their pennies to help purchase a rare copy of Lincoln's Gettsyburg Address written by the president. Only five known copies of this speech in the president's own hand are known to exist.

That copy of the Gettysburg Address was offered for sale to the state for $60,000, which was a lot of money in 1943. In the middle of World War II, state government did not have enough money to buy the document. The children of Illinois came to the rescue, donating their pennies and raising $45,000. The remainder was contributed by Chicago department store owner Marshall Field, who said he donated his money because he was so touched by all of the pennies collected by Illinois children.

'I'll bet some of your grandfathers and grandmothers donated some of their pennies to buy that copy of the Gettysburg Address!" Mrs. Ryan added.

The library building is scheduled for completion in 2002 and will house the state's world-renowned Lincoln Collection and serve as the new home for the Illinois State Historical Library. The museum is scheduled to be finished in 2003 and will contain state-of-the-art exhibits on Lincoln and his times, audio-visual programs, a restaurant and gift shop.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is being funded through a variety of public and private sources. The State of Illinois has appropriated $50 million for the facility, with the City of Springfield contributing $10 million plus the site. The federal government has provided $2.7 million to help plan the library and museum, and in its most recent session Congress committed $10 million in matching funds. Congress has authorized a $50 million cap on matching funds for the project.

In addition, private fundraising efforts are underway, with more than $4.55 million in major corporate donations to date. Among the donations are $2 million from the Ameritech Foundation to support The Ameritech Holavision® Theater; $1 million from the Motorola Foundation; and $1 million from the State Farm Companies Foundation.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation, chaired by the First Lady, is actively seeking $35 million in private funds to help complete construction and fund an endowment for ongoing public programming.


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