Editor’s Note: During this diocesan Year of Youth decreed by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., The Monitor is recognizing young people who are living their faith, doing their best and making a difference in the community.
By David Karas, Correspondent
When 17-year-old Kayla Loges learned that a mold issue forced the relocation of the food bank at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst – and with it, the unfortunate loss of its entire stock of food items – she was moved to action.
“I was surprised to hear how many people staying on the base rely on the food bank,” said Loges, a senior in Freehold Township High School and a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. “It was upsetting to hear that all supplies at the bank had to get thrown away due to mold.”
Loges learned about the plight of the food bank from her youth ministry coordinator, Jeanne Marinello, who initially found out about the need from fellow parishioner Maureen Fasano. Fasano is a member of the Sunrise Optimist Club of Freehold, which was partnering with the parish youth ministry to collect supplies to help restock the food bank.
“I thought it was great that the Sunrise Optimist Club and the youth group were going to work together in collecting supplies, but I was hoping that I could make it a little bigger by getting my high school involved,” Loges said.
Loges brought the idea to her school’s Lead for Diversity group, which works to eliminate bias, bullying and inappropriate language throughout the school. The group was in the midst of planning for a spirit week – Patriot Nation Week – and she thought the service project would be a fitting component of a week dedicated to bringing the school community together.
She got approval from school administrators, and then worked to integrate the dea into the Battle of the Classes, a large school event during Patriot Nation Week.
“The collection was made into a competition of who could collect the most items. The grade that collected the most would earn points for their team,” she said. “I helped organize the collection by coordinating with the school and Maureen Fasano, who would be collecting the items.”
With the help of her peers, as well as the support of her Lead for Diversity adviser, Frank Torres, more than 400 items were collected to help restock the food bank.
“It is important to support military families,” Loges said. “Because those who serve sacrifice so much for us to keep us safe, giving them our support is the least we can do.”
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is spread across some 42,000 acres. A range of servicemen and women, civilians and families call the base home, with the food bank Loges has supported being a resource to residents living on base.
The high school senior noted that service has always been a significant part of her life.
“I like to help whenever I can,” she said. “This collection was just something I thought I would be able to contribute to, and I am so glad that my peers helped to make it a success.”
Loges also reflected on the role that faith plays in her life. “My faith is very important to me,” she said. “I have been blessed with a good life and I am grateful for it. I always try to do what is right, and if an opportunity presents itself to give back and help others, I want to be a part of it.”
Marinello, her youth ministry coordinator, hopes the example Loges set might inspire others to follow suit. “My hope is that other youth groups and organizations will see that service projects are bigger than our individual parish groups,” she said. “They can be a spark for bigger efforts.”