By Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese | Correspondent
In a nod to its Catholic Schools Week theme of “Hearts to Lead, Hands to Serve,” fourth- through eighth-grade students in St. Mary of the Lakes School, Medford, spent a school day hand-tying more than three dozen blankets adorned with pink hearts for young homeless or runaways not too much older than themselves.
The blankets, donated along with other items, were presented Feb. 1 during an assembly with Covenant House of Camden, which provides food, shelter and basic services to young people.
“At St. Mary of the Lakes, we live our faith in lots of different ways, and one of those ways is service to others,” Principal Amy Rash said before introducing guest speaker Jennifer Williams, Covenant House development manager.
Williams explained to the students that Covenant House outreach staff searches the streets for homeless children and runaways, adding that oftentimes, the children and young people are homeless through no fault of their own.
She told stories of how some of the Covenant House clients have no stable or safe home. One such recipient, she explained, was a young man who, at age 20, had never had his own birthday cake. The next day, the staff surprised him with his very own birthday cake, even though it wasn’t his birthday.
“That’s what Covenant House does,” Williams said. “We make sure our young people feel valued and loved.”
The Catholic Schools Week themes of “serve” and “lead” were not lost on the students, as kindergartners Matthew Rainer and Megan Kearney presented Williams with one of 38 fleece blankets the school donated to the service agency.
“The beds are going to have these blankets on them so the young people can feel safe and warm,” Williams said.
Sixth-grader Artie Wheeler, who attended the Covenant House talk, said, “I enjoy giving back to the community. If everyone did this more often, maybe the world would be a better place.”
Added eighth-grader Luke Denn, “Setting aside time to give is important. The reason to give is so other people have a chance to see the Light of Christ in your actions.”
Seventh-grader Elizabeth Bell said the students enjoyed making the blankets. “If a lot of people work together, it can have a pretty amazing outcome.”
Williams pointed out that such events, while raising much-needed funds for the nonprofit organization, also serve another purpose.
“It makes people aware of who we are and what we do,” Williams said. “It’s important for us to let people know we are in their own backyard.
“I also like the impact it has on younger people,” she added. “I think it plants a seed in them for service. It reminds them there are peers living a different life than them. It sets a path for compassion.”
St. Mary of the Lakes School will be holding a Sleep Out for Homelessness fundraising event for Covenant House on April 27. For more information on Covenant House, or to make a donation, visit nj.covenanthouse.org.