Students called to fill ‘Blessing Bags’

St. Patrick Jr. High service project to help local homeless

By Melanie Yingst -

TROY — It was a sign from God — they believe — found just outside their classroom walls that led St. Patrick Catholic School seventh-grade students lead their school to serve others in need in their community.

Principal Cyndi Cathcart challenged the seventh-grade students to come up with a community service project this fall. A few days later, a pillow and blanket were found near the school campus, which was most likely left behind by someone without shelter overnight.

It was that discarded pillow and blanket that inspired the seventh-grade service project “Blessing Bags” for the local shelters this holiday season. Each class in the school was challenged to bring in an item to fill the bags. To date, St. Patrick Catholic School filled 19 bags for women and 20 bags for men. Dick Steineman who directs the St. Joseph’s House, a cold shelter on Mulberry Street, and the St. Patrick Soup Kitchen, will help distribute the bags, as well as teachers who will keep them in their vehicles to distribute to those in need.

Seventh grader Sarah Lins, 12, did research on what items homeless people need the most in their time of need and found Chapstick and socks were the two most requested items.

“I found that Chapstick and socks were the most needed, but the least thought of thing that most people donated so we included those items in the bags,” Lins said. “I made a list of all the things that would be needed and we sat down and wrote a letter to all the parents.”

Lilly Williams, 12, shared how she helped organize and put the bags together with their class.

“It feels really good to give people that don’t have as much as we do,” Williams said. “This also helped unite us as a Catholic school … and I think that it’s nice that it felt like a call from God saying that we should give back to those who don’t have as much and be humble.”

The seventh grade will continue to collect donations of the items to put together bags to be distributed in the spring. The class goal for the Blessing Bags is to distribute them four times a year.

The bags include toothpaste, toothbrushes and toiletries, ponchos, tarps, Chapstick and face wipes. The Blessing Bags also include Bible scriptures.

“It feels really good to help. It was fun being a part of giving back to our community,” Katie Huelskamp said.

Several students recalled seeing homeless in larger cities such as Washington, D.C. on their class trip, but it was the blanket and pillow left behind in their own community that showed them that the problem exists in their hometown.

“I thought it was nice to give things to the homeless because before I hadn’t seen many homeless people around here. It just never came to my mind that they were here,” said Alicia Cavanaugh, 13.

Caroline Wesner, 12, shared how it was a humbling experience to know how those few items in a plastic Ziplock bag could make a difference in someone’s life.

“It’s all they may have,” she said.

For more information about St. Patrick Catholic Schools, visit
St. Patrick Jr. High service project to help local homeless

By Melanie Yingst