OWATONNA — St. Mary’s school will host a community service night from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria.
Titled “Start the New Year Right,” the event will enable students, families and guests to make sandwiches for Hospitality House and other local charities, create survival kits for new dog owners, craft blankets for pets and design door hangers for senior citizens, among other projects. These endeavors are all designed by St. Mary’s students.
Each year, Chris Smith, a St. Mary’s teacher, asks his seventh- and eighth-grade students to pick an issue important to them, make a presentation on it, and then offer a solution to address it. The seventh-graders must design projects that can be completed by people of all ages in an hour in the cafeteria, while eighth-graders have wider parameters, like taking a field trip to Feed My Starving Children.
A trip to a Feed My Starving Children packing site in Eagan is a fitting idea for St. Mary’s, as students from the school helped pack meals for the organization during an Owatonna MobilePack in October.
Feed My Starving Children, a Christian non-profit, has seven permanent packing sites, including three in Minnesota — in Chanhassen, Eagan and Coon Rapids — where packing occurs six days per week, but roughly a quarter of the meals the organization sends out annually come from mobile packing sites like the one Owatonna hosted in October, said the organization’s Manny Kuphal. In 2016, the group saw a total of 300 mobile packing sites with a goal of packing 295 million meals.
The school has made a habit of assisting in annual Owatonna MobilePacks with students in grades five and six, Gaye McCann, a sixth-grade teacher, said in October. “It’s all about service.”
Maggie Newhouse, an eighth-grader, chose “elderly loneliness” as her topic for Smith’s class this, she said last week. “I think of people who are alone and being left out.”
To attenuate that loneliness, Newhouse is having those who attend Wednesday’s community service night create door hangers for older individuals, she said.
“I want to make something they can look at and know people are thinking of them,” she said.
She’ll have all the materials cut out prior to Wednesday night.
“They can decorate them however they want to personalize them,” she said.
She’s hoping to create 50 of these door hangers, and she’ll complete on her own however many don’t get finished Wednesday in the cafeteria, she said. Then, she’ll take them to Koda Living Community.
Smith asked students in grades six through eight to perform 12 hours of service in the first trimester. Instead, students averaged 30.
“We have some really generous hearts here,” Smith said.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons he enjoys teaching junior high students.
“They still have hope, and they believe they can make the world a better place,” he said. “They enjoy it. They want to do it.”