Although toys and games are generally coveted among her peers, Brittany Hathaway began her shopping trip Dec. 10 by heading right to the store clothing section. That’s because her designated gift recipient was an 11-year-old girl who comes from a family struggling to make ends meet.
"I was interested in getting her, like, a hat and mittens because it’s wintertime — what she needs first, and what she wants last. Clothes and sweatshirts, things that will last a while," said Brittany, 10.
Brittany’s fifth-grade class at St. Patrick School in Owego purchased the gifts at a nearby department store, then wrapped them a few days later as a part of an annual Christmas outreach project by St. Patrick’s fifth and fourth grades through Tioga County Rural Ministry. The shopping funds, garnered through contributions by students and their families, totaled $800 this past Christmas — "the most we’ve ever raised," said Paula Smith, principal.
St. Patrick was not alone in such efforts, as many other diocesan Catholic schools recently stepped forward to extend holiday help. For example, St. Rita School in Webster logged several service projects that included collecting toys, winter coats, backpacks, school supplies and personal-care items for those less fortunate. Among the beneficiaries were CASA, an organization for foster children; and Mary’s Place, a clothing closet in Rochester.
At St. Mary Our Mother School in Horseheads, food baskets were prepared by students and their families for an annual initiative with the parish social ministry to provide food for needy area residents. The baskets were blessed by Father Christopher Linsler, pastor of St. Mary Our Mother, on Dec. 17. According to Marilyn Zinn, principal, 210 families benefitted from the project this past Christmas — "a number which seems to grow with each year," she remarked.
Some schools connected fun to their Christmas giving. At St. Ann in Hornell, each student who brought a new toy for donation on Dec. 10 earned a N.U.T. (No Uniform Today) Day that is normally allotted for charitable efforts at other times of the year. Lisa Dirlam, principal, estimated that 55 to 60 toys were brought in for donation to Steuben County Rural Ministry in Canisteo.
Meanwhile, St. Michael School in Penn Yan recently collected hundreds of canned goods and boxes of nonperishable food items. This initiative was especially memorable the previous Christmas season, as David Paddock, principal, spent a school day working from the school rooftop after promising to do so if 500 cans of food were collected; students brought in more than 600.
Among other diocesan schools that participated in Christmas-related charitable endeavors:
- St. Michael School, Penn Yan: Collections of canned goods and boxes of nonperishable food items totaled in the hundreds.
- St. John Neumann School, Rochester: Donations of toiletries and household items were earmarked for Isaiah House, a hospice facility in Rochester.
- Seton Catholic School, Brighton: School supplies were placed in hallway bins the week of Dec. 6-10, then delivered to Saint’s Place, a refugee ministry of St. Louis Parish in Pittsford.
- Immaculate Conception School, Ithaca: Children delivered shoe boxes of gifts to Catholic Charities after they were blessed by Father Leo Reinhardt, Immaculate Conception’s pastor.
- Holy Family Elementary School, Elmira: The school "adopted" six families from the Catholic Charities Christmas Program, providing gifts over a four-week period for a total of 12 adults and 20 children.
- St. Louis School, Pittsford: Students donated 140 filled stockings to St. Joseph’s Villa in Greece, an agency that supports at-risk youths, as part of the school’s Holiday Wishes program. Stocking gifts included bus passes, toiletry items, clothing, gift certificates, small games, books and DVDs.
These thoughtful acts help raise awareness about the importance of giving as well as receiving at Christmas, said Smith in Owego and Sister Katherine Ann Rappl, RSM, principal of St. Rita in Webster.
Sister Rappl noted that students at her school are made aware they’re among the 20 percent of the world’s population who use 80 percent of the world’s resources.
"They are happy to share," she remarked.
At St. Patrick In Owego, "They really get a perspective of what it’s like to get a different type of Christmas. These are hard economic times," Smith said. "They get excited that they’re doing something for somebody. They get a whole different feeling about Christmas."
"It feels really good inside," Brittany added.