Sacred Heart students celebrate by serving others

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Maggie Blackwell
The gifts poured in: soap, teddy bears, ball caps, toothbrushes and snuggly blankets. Students at Sacred Heart Catholic School concluded a week of service-related activities with an outpouring of items to fill suitcases for foster children.
Dubbed Project Suitcase, the effort was in recognition of National Catholic Schools Week, an annual observation of parochial schools. This year’s theme, “Celebrate Service,” prompted students to serve others. Earlier in the week, students collected food for Rowan Helping Ministries.
Sister Mary Robert, pastoral associate at Sacred Heart, developed Operation Suitcase six years ago when she read of a similar project in the Belmont parish. She read that foster children are often removed from their original homes so hastily that they cannot take any personal belongings with them. The project provides those children with a suitcase filled with essentials.
She purchases small suitcases and the students fill them with many daily necessities: soap, combs, brushes, and toothbrushes. Suitcases are tailored by gender, with girls getting Barbie toothbrushes or boys receiving ball caps to wear.
Sister Mary Robert occasionally calls representatives at the Department of Social Services to identify what type gender and age child is in need, and delivers the bags to the agency. She never sees the children who receive them.
This year, students carried overflowing bags into the church to pack the suitcases. Iris Bonilla, a middle school student, was pleased to help children who need it. Jordan Pring said the project “is all about not being selfish,” and Tim Burgess brought lots of ball caps for boys who might have to go to foster homes.
“The point is to let these children know someone cares about them. You will be blessed for giving,” Sister Mary Robert said. She has served Sacred Heart for 26 years.
She accepts donations at any time.