Ellie Bennett, a fourth-grader in St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, proudly makes face masks for family members, friends and frontline workers. Courtesy photo
Ellie Bennett, a fourth-grader in St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, proudly makes face masks for family members, friends and frontline workers. Courtesy photo
Two St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, students are working to lessen the spread of the coronavirus by combining their love of sewing and service.

Along with participating in online studies at home, students Ellie Bennett, a fourth-grader, and Charlotte Canzoneri, an eighth-grader, have also kept busy by sewing masks to give to others.

Noting how she “really likes to help people,” Bennett wanted to start making masks for her own friends and family, but her good works stretched to also fulfill the requests made by other friends of her family to be given to frontline workers including nurses, police officers, doctors and flight attendants in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

She also gave masks to her pastor, Father Damian McElroy of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, and Mercy Sister Carole MacKenthun, sixth- and eighth-grade religion teacher in St. Catharine School.

“I thought it was important to do my part during this pandemic to give back to others,” Bennett said. “I really like to make the masks for the frontline workers because they are doing so much for the world.”

Bennett’s mother, Kim, a school PTA co-president, noted that her daughter’s good deed has turned into a family project.

Canzoneri shared that her grandmother, Jeanne Liberkowski, sews for a living, and “I have always done special projects with her.” Now with the pandemic, Canzoneri said she wanted to help other people and help prevent the spread of the virus.

“It is a perfect time in quarantine to bond with family and also help others,” Canzoneri said, noting that her masks were initially given to the religious sisters living in St. Catharine Convent, where Sister Carole resides. However, because there was a large quantity of masks, Sister Carole was able to provide masks for the sick and retired Sisters of Mercy living in Watchung; Merion, Pa.; Silver Springs, Md., and Peru, as well as for the Religious Teachers Filippini sisters in St. Joseph Hall, Morristown, and for the Capuchin Franciscan priests in Washington, D.C.

Sister Carole reflected on the girls’ willingness to help others, saying that the “greatest gift for a teacher is when a student starts a ripple of love and service and it continues to touch so many others in the process.”

She also stressed how service is instilled in the school community. For example, the school has donated food to neighboring parishes, collected money for St. Kizito, its “sister school” in Uganda, sent candy to U.S. troops and collected Christmas items for the less fortunate.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Sister Carole said the PTA has initiated a “Gratitude Campaign” with suggestions on how school families could thank community – the town’s police and fire departments, first aid squad, public works department and mail carriers. The campaign also encouraged families to support small businesses that have generously supported St. Catharine School’s past fundraising endeavors.

When it comes to providing outreach, Sister Carole emphasized how the “students learn from their parents and our faculty, who are initiators of service in their homes and classrooms.”