By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
PLANO—Students at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic School are involved in numerous service projects throughout the year with a goal that practice becomes a habit and the habit a life-long commitment of giving to others.
For the past four years, students have assembled blankets. For the first two years, those blankets went to area nursing homes, but for the past two years, the soft, colorful blankets have been destined for the men and women at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Dallas.
“We’ve had a grant for the last two years that supplied the money, then we have one of our teachers who goes out and buys the material,” said Pamela Steinkirchner, the school’s assistant principal. “We have another volunteer parent who prepares the materials so the kids are ready to make the blankets.”
The project began with about 50 blankets and has expanded to approximately 80 blankets. The blankets, along with cards thanking the veterans for their service, are then taken to the VA hospital by a volunteer.
On Oct. 24, older students got on their hands and knees in an upstairs hallway and worked in teams to assemble the blankets. First they cut strips along the perimeter of two even-sized pieces of material; then they tied knots to hold the pieces together to make the blanket.
Joking and laughter went away when asked why the project was important.
“To honor and thank those who serve,” they agreed.
In another room, older students sat in pairs with younger partners. The older students cut the strips in the blankets, and then assisted younger students in tying the knots.
“First, you cross it and then you put this one into the hole,” one boy told a younger one. “See? You want to try?”
A young boy shook his head and then tried his hand in crossing the strips and trying to loop one end through the space below it.
The process was repeated several times by other older students and their little partners—smiles, laughter and giggles also repeated in several classrooms.
“This is our October service project making blankets for veterans,” said Tara Blakenship, one of the kindergarten teachers. “It is very important for these kids to learn how to make things for others and do things for others.”
Steinkirchner, the assistant principal, said that initially the blanket project was done in January but was switched to October so that the veterans could have the blankets throughout the winter months.
Each of the blankets comes with a card, handwritten by a student. “Thank you for your service. Happy Veteran’s Day.”
Steinkirchner said that all of the service projects enable students to share and be thankful. but that the blanket project is particularly special.
“I hope they understand the importance of giving back,” she said. “They have been so blessed with so many different things. We do a monthly service project and our goal here at St. Mark is that this becomes a habit.”
She said once students graduate, they not only can look back at what they have done, but they will continue to do it beyond high school.
“That’s what we want to make sure they learn; that something gnaws at them and says, ‘What have you done? You have been blessed with so many things,’ ‘’ she said. “From the age of 3 they have been doing these things and it’s not just collecting money, it is seeing the physical things. One of our grandparents received one of these blankets. That was really neat.”