Cristo Rey St. Martin students help feed those in need in Waukegan

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Cristo Rey St. Martin students help feed those in need in Waukegan

In response to the Waukegan area’s financial challenges due to the pandemic, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep and the Northern Illinois Food Bank hosted a community drive-through food distribution event Jan. 30, 2021 in the school's parking lot. Around 80 students were joined by staff, families and friends of the school in distributing enough groceries to serve over 1,500 families. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student moves boxes of food that will be distributed in cars. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student speaks with a driver as cars, with their trunks open, line up to receive food. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student loads a box of food into the back of a truck. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student moves boxes of food. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
An adult volunteer moves around a package containing jugs of water. Staff and friends of the school joined 80 students in the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

In freezing temperatures and high winds the morning of Jan. 30, about 80 students and 30 staff and friends of Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan worked in the school’s parking lot filling car trunks with food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

It was the first of six drive-thru distributions the school will host from now until April, said Jim Dippold, director of campus ministry at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep. The school hosted a similar distribution in October and served about 2,000 families.

Pre-pandemic, students regularly volunteered at the Northern Illinois Food Bank once a week, so when the food bank was looking for an additional drive-thru distribution site, the school volunteered.

Cristo Rey St. Martin is part of the Cristo Rey Network of schools around the country that operate on a unique model in which students receive a college-preparatory education and spend five, eight-hour days a month working at local corporations such as Abbot Laboratory and Wintrust Bank in the Chicago area. The model allows students to earn about 60 percent of their tuition while gaining valuable work experience.

Cristo Rey St. Martin students are no strangers to serving their community, Dippold said.

“We have a great student community of folks who love to volunteer. We have no service requirement, no service hours, but it is a central part of our mission to be of service to others,” he said.

Before the pandemic, about two-thirds of the student body regularly volunteered in the community. Doing it without being required to brings a different ethic to the service, Dippold said.

Students are still volunteering in the community but now they go in small groups, Dippold said. Before, the school would have buses going out three nights a week to take students to service opportunities.

When the school put out the call for volunteers for the Jan. 30 food distribution, the available slots filled up quickly, Dippold said. Part of that might be because it gave students an opportunity to socialize while most of them are learning remotely, but it also demonstrates their strong commitment to service.

Cristo Rey St. Martin students are largely Latino and many come from immigrant families, a population hit hard by the virus.

“It hits families and everyone in the families get it,” Dippold said. “We have a lot of students who’ve had COVID and a lot more who have parents or other extended family who are dealing with COVID.”

The school has been operating on a hybrid model, with some students coming in to the building and most learning remotely. As vaccinations increase, the school hopes to bring more teachers and students back to the school, said Preston Kendall, the school’s president, who also volunteered at the Jan. 30 food distribution.

The school has had zero in-school COVID-19 transmissions since summer and continues to make adjustments to their building to make it as safe as possible for students. For example, the school installed commercial ultraviolet lighting in the HVAC system, in order to kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and installed touchless faucets, among other measures, Kendall said.

He sees a connection between making the school safe for students and hosting service events like the food distribution.

“We talk about being a faith-based community and being committed to justice and service and this is what we mean,” Kendall said. “We want the students to experience what service is about. But there’s also a faith component. It’s about what do you believe and how are you living out those beliefs in those actions? If you love your neighbor, you’ve got to show your love, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Juniors Vannessy T. and Evelyn G. have taken that lesson to heart.

“We know that during these tough times some people are struggling to get food supplies, so we decided to come help out and give them the necessary food,” Vannessy said. “It really warms our heart coming out here.”

“We’ve lived here all of our lives. When we see an opportunity to come and help out and give back we take advantage of it,” Evelyn said. “We know our town is not as fortunate as others.”

Vannessy confirmed that service opportunities such as the food distribution are part of the Cristo Rey St. Martin spirit.

“We’re kind of like a family here, too,” she said. “When we see opportunities like this we can come together.”


  • catholic schools
  • hunger

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