ROCHESTER — Brown paper bags decorated with such positive messages as “You are special!” and “God loves you!” lined the end of the table at which parishioners of St. Monica Church worked to produce peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to fill them.
The sandwich-making event took place at the church June 6 and was part of a community service opportunity known as the PB&J Factory, an Open Door Mission volunteer program. The parish’s director of faith formation, Jessica Tette, led the event.
More than 10 volunteers worked together in an assembly-line manner, with each person responsible for a different job to put together 50 bagged lunches, which each included a sandwich, a bag of chips and a bottle of water.
According to Tette, upon contacting Open Door Mission to set up a service learning opportunity for the youths at St. Monica, the organization had recommended the PB&J Factory. Parishioners of all ages responded to Tette’s bulletin announcement about the initiative by offering to volunteer for the event or donating the requested items needed for the lunches, such as sliced bread.
“This summer, we’re focusing on service learning opportunities,” Tette said. “It’s more about learning from people who are different and learning where the needs are and what gifts the kids have that they can use now.”
Other service learning opportunities for St. Monica’s youths have included gardening at St. Peter’s Community Kitchen and a prayer-and-worship night led by high-school students at Bethany House. The students also planned and cooked a spaghetti dinner with brownies for dessert.
“I wanted to give the kids more of a worldly perspective, get them involved in the wider Rochester community and the opportunity to see what other people are going through,” Tette said.
Service opportunities and experiences such as these are important to students like Gianna Glasgow.
“It’s important to show empathy to people in the world,” she said.
In addition to volunteering with the church, Gianna said she also has volunteered on her own with such organizations as Foodlink.
“It’s fulfilling,” she said about being able to help struggling people by providing them with the basics they may need, such as food.
Being able to help others and give back to the community also is why parishioners Susan Hart and her daughter, Kenyatta, volunteer with St. Monica as well.
“There’s some people who don’t have enough food,” said Kenyatta in explaining her reason for volunteering, “I wanted to make sure they had something to eat.”