Throughout the school year, St. Mary Catholic Schools (SMCS) students have set a great example by serving the community in a large way.
Mary Lou Kalaus, SMCMS school counselor and campus minister, has helped further community involvement by teaching the importance of it at a young age.
“We are trying to build servant leaders,” Kalaus said. “When we model our lives after Jesus, the ultimate servant leader, then we are called to reach out to others…If we can foster that at a young age, they become more servant leaders in their communities, parishes, and later in their lives. I think that’s important.”
In past years, SMCS students were actively out in the community helping those in need, especially the high school Key Club.
Jubilee Lauterborn, a SMCHS social studies teacher and Key Club mentor, recalls a couple of the big projects the club worked on.
“We get 10 families in the area that cannot have a proper Thanksgiving,” Lauterborn said. “We get the whole school to donate certain items. We go ahead and divide them out and give all the items to the families so they can have a full Thanksgiving. Sometimes, they get a lot more because people donate a ton.”
The Key Club would also bake cookies and make treats for cancer patients and their families at St. Elizabeth on a biweekly basis. Although the patients could not always enjoy the cookies themselves, their families would snack on them while visiting.
Eric Rudd, director of ministry at SMCHS, has seen plenty of service hours, both within the SMCS community and in the greater community, as well.
“There is a lot of that going on. Students have done camp counseling, youth conferences, mission trips, all from the summer. In the summer, you see most of the hours outside of the system. During the school year, I see a lot of hours with local parishes.”
Service during a COVID-19-ridden year
Although many traditional serving opportunities are unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SMCS students are adapting and still able to help the greater community.
“The service is still going pretty strong, even with COVID-19,” Rudd said. “A lot of the opportunities that I am seeing are opportunities at our local parishes, like singing at mass, altar serving, youth group events they volunteer at.”
The Key Club also has looked different during the pandemic. Lauterborn insists that there are still positives from the changes.
“This year, Key Club has definitely changed because of COVID-19,” Lauterborn said. “We used to meet as a huge group. Now, we have all virtual meetings. They are a blessing, as well. Anyone can access them whenever they can, and I can add things whenever I want, if needed.”
An example of a new initiative the Key Club has taken on is creating tie blankets. The blankets have been distributed to the Alten Haus, Salvation Army and younger SMCS students. They are still making blankets and have a goal in mind.
“What we are doing right now is trying to create enough blankets for all kindergarten and 1st grade students in SMCS,” Lauterborn said. “That was our way of trying to bring the SMCS community together.”
Serving at the middle school level has taken on different obstacles. Since the students are unable to drive, they rely heavily on their parents. Kalaus does not see that as a negative, but more of an opportunity to get more helping hands involved.
“I think it became less about us and the individual student and encouraged families (to serve the community), because they had to make the decision on what they were comfortable with.”
One of the biggest service events throughout SMCS this year was created and coordinated by middles school parents. During a day off from school, 63 students and 19 parent chaperons raked the yards of 17 local parishioners. The event totaled over 160 hours of service in one afternoon.
“That was really nice to have parents say ‘We will organize this. We will do it. Will you advertise it and help get the kids committed?’ It was all communicated at home and the parents could decide if it was something they were comfortable with.”
Smaller opportunities in the classroom have been available to the SMCMS kids, as well.
“A teacher may offer students to sanitize all the tables and sign their service slip. If students can help in the lunchroom. We try to market those little things. Little things can lead to big things.”
The past year has been difficult for numerous reasons, but Lauterborn is still teaching the importance of helping others out, especially during tough times.
“It goes back to being a good human. And that is what we teach (at SMCS). Help people while you can. We are very lucky to be able to help people out.”
Below are just a few other photos from the array of Zephyrs’ community service and volunteering activities during the 2020-21 school year.
Pictured: SMM Elementary students have the comfort of handmade blankets during reading time thanks to the donation from SMCHS Key Club.
Pictured: SMCHS Zephyrs Baseball mentored Zephyrs Baseball Camp attendees earlier this year.
Pictured: SM Elementary students created tie blankets that were donated to the Community Clothes Closet to be given to those in need.
Pictured: SG Elementary students collected breakfast goods for St. Joseph Food Pantry.
Pictured: SMCMS students raked leaves for local residents and parishioners during a school-wide fall semester service day.
Pictured: SMCHS regularly hosts blood drives in partnership with The Community Blood Center, during which dozens of students and staff give blood.