MIDDLEBURY-The students and faculty of St. Mary's School in downtown Middlebury pitched in recently to help raise funds for Haitian earthquake victims. Teacher Emily Stark first proposed the idea; she planned it in conjunction with her former Roman Catholic parish church, St. Francis Xavier, located in Dyersville, Iowa.
Taking her teacher's lead, St. Mary student Andrea Boe, a member of the parochial school's newspaper club, suggested a bake sale as a means to generate in-school funds for the victims. The sale was planned to be entirely in-house and coordinated by the newspaper club members.
"We had one and half weeks to prepare," said teacher Megan Baker, who heads the school's newspaper club. "Students in St. Mary's Newspaper Club coordinated the sale and sold the baked goods to students and teachers at a table they set up in the school library."
Stark, who teaches third grade at St. Mary's, has visited Haiti as a lay missionary with her former Iowa parish.
"Haiti holds a special place in my heart," Stark said. "When I heard about the earthquake, my initial feeling was one of helplessness."
Stark's family became involved in Catholic service work to Haiti through St. Francis Xavier. The Iowa church has a sister parish in the hillside Haitian village of Fond Verrettes.
"Every year a group travels to Haiti with medical supplies, school necessities, food, clothing and other items, we often take for granted," Stark said. "I was fortunate to travel to Haiti in 2001. Since then, a member of my immediate family has made the trip; connections have been made and hearts imprinted. Sadly, the St. Joseph's Boy Homes, a refuge for homeless boys, was destroyed by the quake; several children died."
St. Mary's also directly helped other Haitian charity houses including Wings of Hope, for severely handicapped children, Trinity House, and Matthew 25, as well as Haitian Catholic parishes and schools.
Under teacher guidance, students helped with food packets for Kids Against Hunger. Each packet contained dry food meals akin to military MREs (meals ready to eat) complete with nutrients, protein, vitamins and minerals.
All the funds raised by St. Mary's were donated to the Xavier Haiti Fund. One hundred percent of the proceeds went directly to aid the earthquake victims.
"I felt bad for the children who lost food," said Olivia, a third grader at the Middlebury school. "We baked things and bought food packets to make them feel better."
Another third grader, Joe, said, "I donated my money and food. I also said prayers for the victims."
Several students said they learned a big lesson about looking outside themselves to help fellow Christians and non-Christians in need.
"We're all connected, "said teacher Emily Stark. "The world is a big family."