Catholic Schools Week: St. Francis Students Learn By Giving Back to Their Community
Whether it’s singing for the residents of Jenny Towers or donating to an area food pantry, students at St. Francis learn the benefits of community service throughout the school year.
Service projects have included making thank you cards for parish members, holiday cards for the elderly and homebound and creating handmade blankets for the Linus Project among others.
“The Home and School Committee tries to come up with two service projects each year for the students,” said Paula Soderberg, president of the Home and School Committee.
A parish clean up day was held last October for the students to assist elderly church members and in spring they will be making and distributing May Baskets to the school’s neighbors.
“At St. Francis there’s a sense of family and good Christian values,” said Michelle Evans, volunteer coordinator for the Home and School Committee and a parent of two children attending the school. “The children are learning to step outside of the box and to not think of themselves so much but to think of how their actions affect others.”
A service oriented club was established this year at St. Francis to offer more opportunities for students to assist their church, school and community. In partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Society the Minnie Vinnies was formed to help middle school students become more involved.
“The purpose of the group is to teach them about community service,” said Sue Norenberg, group advisor and Outreach Coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul. “It’s so important to help Christ’s needy.”
The group of 24 students, age 13 and older, meet once a month to plan special projects and activities. The first event, a cookie sale, raised money to purchase gifts for four children chosen from the Sharing Christmas Spirit Appeal Giving Tree.
The students are currently collecting donations through the Coins for Rice program which will purchase rice for the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica.
“We plan to do something special every month,” Norenberg said.
Other activities will include making Valentine’s for the residents of Pine Crest Nursing Home, collecting food for the Community Food Pantry and working in the Soup Kitchen at St. Francis. One meeting will be devoted to praying for the residents of Bell Tower. Each meeting also begins and ends with prayer.
“We are trying to show them that it’s not just about giving monetary things, but that we can also pray for others,” Norenberg said.
Emily Weix, a sixth grade student at St. Francis decided to join the Minnie Vinnies because most of her classmates were a part of the group and she thought it would be fun to help others.
“We do a service project every month,” she said. “It’s just good to know we are doing it for a good cause.”
Advisor Tammy Cohrs has served on the Conference Board for St. Vincent de Paul since its inception in Merrill more than 10 years ago. She said the idea for the Minnie Vinnies came about when the local conference began looking for ways to get more young people involved.
”The kids are so fun to work with,” she said. “It’s nice to make them aware of the need in the community at such a young age.”
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