St. Mary’s School held its second annual day of service on Nov. 17, during the national observance of Discover Catholic Schools Week.
Classes ceased from 9 to 10 a.m. so students could work on projects that will appear in the community to help those in need.
“This is an opportunity for us to show the world what we do here at Catholic school,” said seventh and eighth grade teacher Melissa Brino. “We are rigorous in academics, but we are faith based, and everything we do is done from the lens of the Catholic faith.
“It is an opportunity for us to show the students how to live their faith, at the same time learning the basics of their religion.”
From preschool to eighth grade, the student projects ranged from cards to thank local police to making blankets for the needy. Some of the projects were taken on through nonprofits like the Unforgotten Haven in Blackwood, which offers projects like Blessing Bags for the homeless and bags of party supplies for families who can’t afford them on their own.
“This day helps us go outside our books and go further into our faith by making something with service,” eighth grade student Jacqueline Lyons explained. “I’ve seen people on the roads and streets and it makes me upset and sad to see those people … The fact that I get to do something simple makes me feel like there is something I can do to reach out and help them.”
“Doing these things makes me feel better about myself,” said seventh grade student Neven Franks. “Doing things for these people who are less fortunate lets us make them feel better about themselves.”
Even younger students learned how the simplest things in their lives may be out of reach for others who are struggling.
“My mom and dad buy me Chapstick whenever I need it,” said fifth grade student Michael DiMarco. “Some people can’t afford it, so when we donate it, we are giving something to people who really need it.”
The day of service brings the entire St. Mary’s community together at one time to share in the value of service. But the school takes part in service projects throughout the year, including turkey feathers to help collect money for the needy, the annual Soup’er Bowl that involves students collecting canned soups for the parish food pantry.
While students are a large part of the day of service, some of the projects would not be possible without donations from parents and families of students.
“We have very generous families,” said Brino. “Anytime we put the call out to do anything, they are always there, and we are so blessed to have families that are there for people in need.”
Some of the organizations that benefited from the St. Mary’s day of service included Our Lady of Peace Parish, the Monroe Township police department and Spring Oak of Berlin assisted living community. Other projects that day included making Thanksgiving centerpieces, cards and treats for seniors and collecting items for homeless single parents.