School turns focus to those in need

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Students at Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School make blessing bags filled with hand warmers, hats, socks, gloves and granola bars for Catholic Charities as part of their Catholic Schools Week events on Jan. 29, 2020. The students delivered the bags to Catholic Charities and toured the offices to understand how their efforts were put to use. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Students at Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School came together Jan. 29 to pack “blessing bags” for Catholic Charities as part of their outreach to the community for Catholic Schools Week.

The project was coordinated by the student council, which asked students from each grade to bring in different items for the bags: $10 gift cards, hand warmers, granola bars, hats and gloves.

Then the students worked together to fill 100 bags, including handmade cards with messages of support and encouragement in each.

On Jan. 30, sixth through eighth graders carried the bags from the upper-grade campus at 363 W. Hill St. to Catholic Charities at 721 N. LaSalle St. so they could be distributed to people in need.

Eighth grader Maggie Maheras, student council president, said the school was emphasizing its ties to the community during Catholic Schools Week. Other efforts included writing letters of thanks to police, firefighters and even a local sandwich shop for their support of the school.

One of the most important parts of the blessing bag project was bringing the whole school together to do it, Maheras said. The school’s two campuses — the one on Hill Street for fourth through eighth grade and one at 1431 N. North Park Ave. for preschool through third grade — only come together a handful of times each school year.

“That shows this is pretty important,” Maheras said.

First through eighth graders participated in the project, with older students helping younger students make their way past tables covered with items for the bags and making sure that each bag got everything it needed.

“These are all things people who are less fortunate than us might need,” said seventh grader James Corby.

“Catholic Schools Week is not only about fun, it’s about serving others,” said Anne Byrne, a school counselor and one of the student council moderators. “It’s about who we are as Catholics.”

The blessing bag project is similar to the school’s “Acts” program in which each month, a different grade level chooses a charity to receive the proceeds of a $1-to-come-out-of-uniform fundraiser. The grade level that chooses the charity is responsible for researching it and publicizing it throughout the school.

Then, once the money is collected, the school tries to connect either in person or by letter with the charity, said Byrne. Later in Catholic Schools Week, the school of 463 students presented a $500 check to the St. Bernard Hospital Mobile Pediatrics Unit, which was to visit the school and give students a tour.

“We’re following the example of Jesus,” Byrne said. “That’s what he did. He served those who were less fortunate, and he did it personally. It’s very easy just to give a dollar and not make a connection, but that’s not what we want to do.”



  • catholic charities
  • catholic schools week

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