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Conyers boy aims to collect 20,000 pencils

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Pete Gentle Benson lays amidst some of the 2,000 donated pencils that will be given to poor children in Africa.

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Pete Gentle Benson lays amidst some of the 2,000 donated pencils that will be given to poor children in Africa.

CONYERS -- This time of year, it's common for people to discover deliveries at their door, either gifts they've ordered or ones they're receiving.

For 9-year-old Pete Gentle Benson, those boxes don't contain either. Instead, he finds packages of pencils on his front porch, donations toward the youngster's effort to collect 20,000 pencils and give them to poor children in Africa.

Pete said he simply wants to be able to supply children with pencils so that they can go to school.

"I just thought I could do something about that," Pete said.

Pete's effort grew out of a slight prodding from his mother, Jenny Gentle Benson.

A former travel agent, Jenny Gentle Benson often visited developing countries because she wanted unique experiences, she said. Destinations such as Africa offered her an understanding of the level of poverty that exists in some countries.

"Kenya is one that really made an impression on me. I always said that Kenya was a better family vacation experience than Disney World," Jenny Gentle Benson said. "You just come home knowing how good you really have it. There, you have families who don't know the luxury of running water or electricity."

Jenny Gentle Benson said that what also stood out about Kenya is that instead of asking for money, the children asked for pencils for school.

Recently, while watching a television show about how small volunteer efforts can lead to big impacts, Jenny Gentle Benson mentioned the lack of pencils in Kenya and challenged her son to collect them.

He suggested collecting 500.

"I said, 'Really, 500? You can do better than that,'" Jenny Gentle Benson said. "He said, 'How about 20,000?'"

From that conversation, Pencils from Pete took form. A Lorraine Elementary School third-grader, Pete Benson has set up pencil collection boxes at his school, Heritage High School and several businesses in Conyers including Los Charros and Kids R Kids, both in the Honey Creek area.

He's also been visiting office supply stores soliciting donations.

"He's taking it very seriously. He's really cute," said his mother. "He's just now grasping that this is kind of a big deal."Jenny Gentle Benson describes her son as part Eddie Haskell with a little Dennis the Menace thrown in.

"He has the biggest heart you've ever seen in your life," Jenny Gentle Benson said.So far, Pete's amassed over 2,000 pencils. Those interested in learning more can visit Pencils for Pete on Facebook.

"It blows me away the people who have jumped on board to help. It kind of restores your faith," Jenny Gentle Benson said.