St. Isaac Jogues MLK Day of Service project warms hearts and bodies
By Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese | Correspondent
It may have been below freezing outside, but there was a warm and fuzzy feeling inside St. Isaac Jogues Church, Marlton, as parishioners and friends joined together Jan. 14 to make cozy fleece blankets that will bring comfort to those fighting cancer.
“People who are happier are people who have found a way to serve,” St. Joseph Sister Mary Kay Kelley, director of religious education, said as faithful took part in the Day of Service event held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Photo Gallery: Making Blankets in St. Isaac Jogues
The colorful throws will be donated to Cozies 4 Chemo, a nonprofit that has donated more than 5,000 blankets to cancer patients throughout the United States and Canada since 2012. This was the second year the parish’s Religious Formation Parent Organization has held the blanket-making event.
“In Religious Formation, our motto is to live the faith, and this is part of it,” said Terri Verrone, Religious Formation office assistant and RFPO volunteer. “So many families want to do something [but] they just don’t know what to do. We provide the opportunity for people to do things that really help.”
Sister Mary Kay pointed out that the event was “intergenerational.” Indeed, making the blankets required simple scissor cuts and knot-tying, making it a perfect service project for people of all ages.
Parishioner Gina Boudakian was supervising two blanket-making projects, both being constructed by her daughter, Nina, and five of Nina’s fellow fourth-grade classmates.
“I think it’s good to get the girls together socially and to do some good,” Boudakian said. “It’s about giving back and how important it is to help others.”
Added Nina, “Even though Christmas is over, it should still be a season of giving.”
Classmate and friend Taylor Burger agreed. “It makes me feel really good about myself to help others,” she said.
The DeMaise family of Medford proved that one is never too young to learn about giving back and helping others. Helping Jimmy and Meghan DeMaise create their blanket were their two children, Gracie, 6, and James, 2.
“I was thinking for the new year we should do a service project once a month,” mom Meghan DeMaise said. “This was a great idea.”
“We are very fortunate to be healthy,” she continued, adding that she hopes the event teaches her children to “love everyone and to give openly and freely.”
Indeed, the project’s reach extended beyond the parish boundaries. Mount Laurel Brownie Troop 28443 cheerfully knotting a pink trimmed floral blanket.
“It’s good for the girls to be a part of the community and give back,” said Aubrey Filippone, parishioner and troop leader.
Verrone said the RFPO holds parish-wide events about once a month, including service projects, such as making sandwiches for the soup kitchen. “Our whole mission as an RFPO is to incorporate Religious Formation into the parish community,” she said. “All of our events are meant for the parish community.”
The idea behind the blanket project came from a former parishioner, Stacey Lee, whose mother died of cancer, Verrone explained, nothing that Lee and her four siblings made a pact to do what they could for other cancer patients.
The RFPO provided the blanket kits and requested a $10 donation per family/group to cover the cost of the kits. Cozies 4 Chemo provides the blanket templates and scissors, while the RFPO purchased the kits from a local fabric store.
Verrone said that last year, the RFPO bought 20 blanket kits and sold out two weeks before the event. This year, the group upped it to 30 kits and still had more than enough volunteers.
In addition to helping those in need, projects such as this help the parish promote service in the community, Verrone said. “We’ve had people sign up for religious formation or join the parish because of an event they’ve been to at the parish.”
For more information on Cozies 4 Chemo, visit cozies4chemo.org.