Students reach out to global, local communities
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Jan. 24, 2008
Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Sioux City provide service projects for
students that spread the light of Christ throughout the world.
Several schools have participated or will participate this year in Kids
Against Hunger (KAH), a project in which bags of food are packaged and sent to
people in need.
The first school in the diocese to do this project was Gehlen Catholic in Le
Mars. From there, schools such as Granville Spalding, Carroll Kuemper and Sioux
City Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools have begun to host their own packaging
events. Pocahontas Catholic has also participated.
This year, Gehlen's third event will be held May 9.
"We don't allow the students to raise money for Kids Against
Hunger," said Richard Seivert, social studies teacher and 7 through 12th
grade counselor at Gehlen. "They do pay for it - $27 to $30 per kid.
Generally that pays for all of the food, the bags, the boxes, the pallets and
even transportation overseas. We consider it part of their mission."
He mentioned that to him "faith is more than just words. It is important
to do the other part of our faith and take what we hear in Mass and church and
actually try them on in practice. We do not let our students turn their back to
The programs at Gehlen are geared towards teaching the students how much of a
difference they can make in the world. The food bags from Gehlen have gone to
Tanzania and other African countries, Honduras and Haiti.
This is the first year Kuemper has participated in Kids Against Hunger. Their
packaging event will be held March 19. A crew from KAH will be going to Kuemper
on Feb. 5 to train National Honor Society students as they will serve as floor
supervisors during the packing event.
Last year a few people from Kuemper were invited to Gehlen High School to
work and observe their Kids Against Hunger project. They thought it was an
excellent K-12 and community project.
"Students have been asking for opportunities, so our principal made sure
that the theology teachers have a common prep time so we can plan and offer more
opportunities to our students," said Carol Anderson, who teaches morality,
Christian lifestyles and Christian service at Kuemper. "We are also taking
a group of students this spring to Biloxi, Miss. to work with Habitat for
Humanity to help rebuild homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina."
She added that these events teach compassion and service to the students and
allows them to realize how blessed most of them are.
"The basic idea is that each person working will contribute $30 to pay
for the raw material used in the meals," said John Kitch, a Kuemper
teacher. "We really don't want them to go home and ask mom and dad for the
money, but to earn the money in some way."
The younger grades are doing penny wars, collecting pop bottles after games,
toy/book sales, doing jobs around the house, etc. The middle school students
organized a garage sale, had dress down days for a $1 and a volleyball
tournament. The high school has had dress down days, worked at the ISU
concession stand, had Burger King nights, a talent show, garage sale, etc.
These efforts were made in order to help offset the cost for those who cannot
afford the $30.
"We are also making this a community event," said Anderson.
"We need 600 volunteers from the community (other churches, public school,
businesses) along with our 1,200 people to make the workforce of 1,800 we will
need for our six two-hour shifts to meet our goal of 500,000 meals. The number
of meals we produce will be most affected by the cost at that time of raw
materials and shipping and by what money we have."
The students/faculty/staff will do most of the work during the first four
shifts from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The last part of the work will mostly be done by
community members during the last two shifts (4 to 8 p.m.). Some community
members will also work during the school day.
The preparation of the bags is done in an assembly line process. A group of
six people bag the food by each putting a measured amount of rice, soy, dried
vegetables and vitamin/mineral mixture in a funnel that fills the bag. Bags are
moved to a person who weighs the bag and add/removes rice to get it to the
The bag is then heat-sealed. It moves on to the spot where it is counted and
boxed. Boxes are then stacked on a pallet and when the pallet is full it is
loaded on the truck.
At full production in Carroll, they will have 30 filling/weighing/sealing
lines going. They are planning 300 people per shift.
St. Lawrence Parish in Carroll has a sister parish in Haiti, so it was
decided to send part of the food to that area. Part of the food will also be
kept in the U.S.
Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City will hold a Kids Against Hunger
bagging event April 23 at the Long Lines Center in Sioux City. According to Mary
Jane Mousel, head teacher at Holy Cross, the hope is to have the middle school
students from each of the schools participate along with students from Heelan
High School and possibly third through fifth grade. More details will be ironed
out as the event gets closer.
"Last year we went up to Gehlen and the students felt like they were
actually doing something to help the poor rather than just give money,"
said Mousel. "Since service is a big part of our mission at BHCS, we would
like to incorporate this."
Other schools in the diocese are participating in projects that reach out to
their own communities as well as the global community.
Not only does Gehlen Catholic participate in KAH, they also participate in
Mission Honduras. The program sends teams at different times of the year to
There are student teams, medical teams and a team from Briar Cliff that go
yearly. The participants mainly work on water projects while they are there.
Currently, there is a medical team in Honduras which makes it Gehlen's 21st trip
there. In March, a team from Gehlen will travel to Honduras.
Students at Danbury Catholic take part in several activities in Danbury and
surrounding communities. There are about 45 students - prekindergarten through
sixth grade - at Danbury Catholic who help with all of the projects.
"We try to do jump rope for heart through the year," said Kristy
Liechti, principal at Danbury Catholic. "We had a P.E. teacher a few years
ago who had a massive heart attack, so that is why we do jump rope for
Other projects they participate in include adopt-a-family, can collections,
visiting the nursing home, etc. At the nursing home, Mass and activities are
offered for the residents.
"I contact the Mapleton food pantry and Catholic Charities in Sioux
City," said Liechti. "Between both of those places, we had eight
families that we adopted this year. We make sure those families have
During Catholic Schools Week, the students will be writing letters to
seminarians letting them know that they are thinking about and praying for the
Liechti pointed out that participating in these types of projects
"humbles the students."
"It makes them more respectful and more grateful for the things they do
have," she said. "I don't see arrogance in our students. That is
evident in some places. The arrogance is there because they are getting a
private education. We are providing more than that and it brings them back to a
humbling atmosphere. They are on the same level as other people. They are not
above other students."
She added that the students need "to live that, experience it, have it
reinforced at home and come back to school and continue on with it."
During Catholic Schools Week this year, students at Mater Dei School in Sioux
City will be preparing "birthday bags" for children at the Boys and
Girls Home and the women's shelter in Sioux City.
"We are basically creating an awareness of service," said Julie
Tebbe, director of campus ministry at Mater Dei School. "The students are
bringing in cake mixes and birthday decorations to create birthday bags for
those that need them."
She said this is a way to make the students aware of needs in their own
"I think service helps them see beyond themselves and really reach out
to see the needs of other people, especially in our local community," said
Tebbe. "That is really important because I think we can get so comfortable
in our own little setting."