“It's so important to understand that we have lots of blessings and gifts, and that's why we need to share with other people that don't have such opportunities."
Students at St. Peter’s School in Washington, D.C., led a recent project to assemble 1,500 bagged breakfasts for those seeking refuge from the cold in homeless shelters around the city.
“It's so important to understand that we have lots of blessings and gifts, and that's why we need to share with other people that don't have such opportunities,” said Maggie, an eighth grader helping lead the project.
She told CNA Feb. 27 that in her group, students ensured that “nobody got anything less than anyone else” by assigning people tasks. One student was named “granola girl,” another was “applesauce guy” and so forth, as they filled up the bags with breakfast items for the homeless.
The school-wide project was part of a larger venture organized by Catholic Charities. Entitled “Cup of Joe,” the initiative brings together volunteer groups to assemble healthy breakfasts for up to 1,300 men and women staying at Catholic Charities shelters every single night.
The meals are offered to those who stay at the shelters, particularly in the cold winter months, said Cup of Joe project coordinator Kevin O’Brien, explaining, “If they're interested in taking breakfast, it's available.”
While the bags assembled by St. Peter's students contain typical items such as granola bars, applesauce, crackers and tea, O'Brien said that the students also decided to decorate their bags and include encouraging Bible verses and notes in both English and Spanish.
“They want to reach out to as many people as possible,” he explained.
Jennifer Ketchum, principal of St. Peter's, said that the project was very much a student-run initiative. Many times over the course of the school year, she explained, students come together in “family” groups to take part in a service project or social activity.
“Each of our eighth graders is responsible for a family with students of all ages,” she explained, adding that the same “family” will work together for the whole year, fostering a sense of community that extends outside of school.
“What's so great is I've had parents tell me that when the older students see the younger students who are in the same family outside of school, they always say 'hi,' and they know each other where they might not otherwise.”
The older students also help to lead the younger students in prayer during their service activities, Ketchum said.
“It's not just about academic growth, it's about the spiritual growth as well.”
Each of the school's 215 students participated in the project, led by 19 eighth graders.
After the service project concluded, Maggie explained that her group of students “ended with a question and answer about what was going on, so they understood why we were doing this.” Each question linked Bible verses to different aspects of the project and reflections about “how can we make it so that we can give out of our abundance.”
Kindergarten student Jane said she hoped to make people happy with the bags, especially with her decorations.
“I'm drawing things that'll make them feel better,” she said as she covered bags in her favorite shapes – hearts and stars.
Maya, a sixth-grade student, said she hoped that by receiving her breakfast bag, the less fortunate would realize “that a lot of people do care.”
“I want them to know they can always find hope,” she said.