School store helps Generous Giants serve others, community

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, February 17, 2022

School store helps Generous Giants serve others, community

Members of the Generous Giants service club at St. Gerald School in Oak Lawn operate a school store every other week to fund their service projects. Members, who are in the fourth through eighth grades, sold school supplies to their schoolmates on Feb. 9, 2022 and are making "sunshine bags" for cancer patients and others with health issues. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The Generous Giants — members of the service club at St. Gerald School in Oak Lawn — have done some pretty cool service projects this year.

They’ve raised money for an agency that helps homeless people set up housekeeping when they find a place to live, they’ve assembled snack bags for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House near Christ Hospital, they’ve made “hope bracelets” and assembled “sunshine bags” with goodies and gift cards for parishioners and others suffering from cancer. In the coming weeks, they will work on providing hygiene items and gifts for residents at Misericordia Home.

But their favorite thing to do?

Run the school store.

The store, which is open during lunch periods every other Wednesday, offers students the opportunity to buy cute pens and pencils, pencil toppers and erasers and even toys like miniature rubber ducks and mochi squishies.

“The mochis are the most popular,” explained sixth grader Michael Concannon, who served as cashier during the lunch period his class staffed on Feb. 9. “Everybody likes those.”

Proceeds from the store fund the club’s service efforts, explained Joanne Madonia, St. Gerald school counselor.

Madonia started Generous Giants this year to offer older students at St. Gerald both a club that is for everyone and an opportunity to help their community.

“School-aged kids love to help other people, but they don’t always have the know-how or have a place to start with service groups,” Madonia said. “They have to be dependent on adults to get them to the places that are well-known to volunteer at.”

The group works on a new cause every month, starting with the school’s own Red Ribbon Week in October. Madonia usually offers choices and students vote on what they want to do. She tries to make sure that each project includes more than just raising money.

“I think it’s a really cool way to help people,” said sixth grader Grace O’Sullivan, who helped younger students choose their purchases Feb. 9.

“It just really makes me happy,” agreed sixth grader Delilah Shaar.

For the Ronald McDonald House project, for example, Madonia used the money the students raised in the store to buy snack items, then the students assembled the bags, checking the items inside and noting the earliest use-by date on the outside of the bag.

“They asked for 20 snack bags with sweet and salty snacks, and we were able to provide 30,” Madonia said.

That’s because the Generous Giants raised more than $100 for the project, Grace said.

That’s at least in part because the school store has become so popular, with children lining up during their lunch periods for a chance to browse the tables. On Feb. 9, the store moved from a corner of the hallway to the school’s activity to allow more room for social distancing, Madonia said.

“We really didn’t expect so much interest,” she said. “So many students wanted to shop that we had to find a bigger space.”

Perhaps part of the reason for that is that Madonia also asks club members’ input on what to sell.

Younger students go more for the cute pencil toppers and erasers, Michael said, while older kids might just buy a pen or pencil because they need one. Everyone buys the toys, though.

Delilah, Grace and Michael all said that they plan to continue being a part of Generous Giants until they graduate. They like the club, they said, because in addition to helping other people, it offers everyone who joins a sense of belonging.

“No one is left out,” Delilah said.


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