LEMARS — Gehlen Catholic School needed to raise $ 1,200 to fund their annual Advent gift bag service project.
Instead, the student body raised $ 3,600.
“It was amazing,” said Alissa Schipper, director of the campus ministry for Gehlen Catholic.
The Christmas season service project has been a tradition at the school for about a decade and involves all of the PK-12 students.
Typically, students and families are encouraged to donate gift items for gift bags, which are then assembled at the school and distributed to community members in need.
This year, however, the school sought to raise funds to purchase items for the gift bags instead of asking students to donate the items. Fundraising began after returning home from school after the Thanksgiving vacation.
PK-6 students were asked to bring change into their classrooms as part of what has come to be dubbed the “Make Your Change Count” campaign. Meanwhile, middle and high school students clashed in a penny war to generate donations.
In the end, each year exceeded the school’s expectations.
“What’s exciting about this is that with the remaining money we’re going to donate to the Christian Needs Center here at LeMars and then we’re going to fund our Gehlen Good Shepherds account here as well,” Schipper said.
The Christian Needs Center is a pantry and clothing serving the people of Plymouth County who struggle to provide these basic necessities for their families. The Gehlen Good Shepherds is a school fund that helps the families of students or staff when they are going through crises such as health problems, injuries or death in the family.
The school used the portion of the money for Advent gift bags to purchase items such as socks, lip balm, lens wipes, tissues, and hand lotion. The students also made handmade Christmas decorations to put in the bags as well as handwritten cards.
“We had a day set aside where the groups worked on their different parts,” Schipper said.
“Our elementary students decorated the bags, then they put the items in the bags. Our high school and high school students sorted the items and made sure they were all ready for the elementary students to put in the bags, then they also made the ornaments and wrote the cards.
In total, the school produced around 350 gift bags. Students spent much of last week and Monday, December 20 delivering the bags to residents of local nursing homes, assisted living centers and group homes. Some bags have also gone to housebound church parishioners or church members in special need.
“These are people who are doing a lot for our school or people who may have recently lost a loved one or just people who we think could use a little bit of awareness from our school,” Schipper said.
She said the annual project is one that students look forward to participating in every year.
“We are truly grateful that our families were able to contribute their generosity to this service project. “