The Army Corps of Engineers at Clarks Hill will flatten a penny for your thoughts. This year, the corps purchased a penny pressing machine that flattens pennies and imprints them with water safety messages.
"You put your penny in there, crank it around, it spits your penny back out, but it's got information on there. And instead of a brochure that winds up in the trash, you're going to save that penny, and you're going to keep accessing that information that is on that penny," said David Quebedeaux, park ranger.
Sheila Sammons and daughter Regan, from Greenville, S.C., recently printed pennies at Thurmond Visitor Center.
Mr. Quebedeaux said the Corps also uses brochures, fishing license holders, hacky sacks, can cuzies, fishing lures, and arm bands to keep water safety foremost in people's minds. He said white males in the 18-44-year-old range have the most problems with water safety.
The Corps prints traditional brochures for approximately 15 cents each, but Mr. Quebedeaux said he doesn't know if they are read. He feels the imprinted pennies are different. "If you get one basic thing out of it, then I'll feel like I've done my job," he said.
The idea for the penny-stamping machine came when one of the rangers brought back a similar souvenir penny from his vacation. Mr. Quebedeaux said most places charge two dollars for a stamped penny, but theirs is free.
The machine flattens the penny, then imprints on the front side an image of the dam, the corps of engineers castle, or a tree with a deer and a bass. On the other side of the penny, a safety message is stamped, such as "wear your lifejacket," "learn to swim," or "never swim alone."
"We try to hammer those issues home in all the programs we do," Mr. Quebedeaux said. "Most people have their life jackets stored away, and then when the boat is sinking, you can't put it on while you're in the water even in the best of circumstances, and maybe your family is sinking, too. It gets difficult."
The messages and images imprinted on the penny will change in the fall. Mr. Quebedeaux said he takes the penny machine and teaches water safety to schools, camps, boy scout troops and other civic groups. All other times, the machine may be seen at the visitor center at the dam.
"People like hands-on type things...It's actually saved us some money, and it's extremely popular. Whenever I take it somewhere, and it's time for me to leave, I've usually got to pry that machine away from the public," Mr. Quebedeaux said. "We're the first federal agency as far as I know to own one of these machines, definitely the first army corps of engineers' project in the nation that owns one. There's some discussion in the headquarters of this being spread throughout the country at different lakes. It's kind of old fashioned and simple, yet highly effective."