St. Bernard students fill bags of help for homeless

Buy Photo Tim Martin/The Day Students at St. Bernard School, including senior Chandler Johnson, 17, right, assemble Blessing Bags on Thursday to give to the homeless, part of Catholic Schools Week. The bags contain hygiene and toiletry products as well as gift cards and healthy snacks. Students assembled more than 100 bags.

Montville - Helping those in need and feeding the hungry was the lesson of the day at St. Bernard School.

Inside the Campus Ministry Office Thursday, students Chandler Johnson and Caylie Poola sorted through toiletries, gift cards and snacks to be placed in "Blessing Bags" - gallon-sized, resealable plastic bags inscribed with the handwritten biblical verse, "Give all your worries and cares to God for he cares about you."

The 100 bags will be given to students who will hand them out to people they see who are in need.

"Sometimes you want to help a homeless person, but you're not sure how to help," said Johnson, a senior from Hampton. "This is a safe and easy way to help."

Students at St. Bernard celebrated National Catholic Schools Week 2013 by participating in a day of service.

The idea for creating the bag came in December, said Jill Patten, director of campus ministry, when she and a group of friends were driving in Waterford and saw a homeless person and wondered how they could help.

"This is the first year that we are doing this," she said. "I thought this would be a great service project to do during Catholic Schools Week. The hope is to teach the students to be compassionate and that an act of kindness can change a person's day for the better."

That message seems to be getting across as Poola, a seventh-grader from East Lyme, said that she hopes the Blessing Bags will give the recipients the message that they are loved and worth something.

"Sometimes you drive by them and don't even look at them," Poola said. "The bags say that we are here for them and hope that it helps them."

As part of the service day, students also sponsored a Red Cross blood drive. A planned delivery of books to Catholic grammar schools in the Norwich diocese had to be rescheduled because power outages delayed the start of school.

Catholic Schools Week is being celebrated this year from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 with the theme "Catholic Schools Raise the Standards."

Events were planned throughout the week to celebrate Catholic education. David Belval, director of visual arts, opened up the school's art gallery this week for an exhibition of art from diocesan schools. Festivities will end today with a pep rally.

Headmaster Thomas J. Doherty III said the events selected this week were intended to celebrate each aspect of the community.

"We have a structured school environment, so to have a week that is a little different is a lot of fun for the students," he said.

Doherty said St. Bernard has always strived to raise the standards for its students.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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