By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
A lesson on service to others inspired students at St. Pius X Catholic School to do more this Christmas season.
Led by members of the school’s National Junior Honor Society, students at St. Pius X raised more than $2,500 with their “Coins for Christmas” fundraiser during the month of November. On Dec. 3, during a school-wide Mass, the students presented a check for $2,528.32 to the parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul to help provide Christmas meals and toys for families in need.”
“I am beyond proud of our NJHS students and all the students at St. Pius X with their ‘Coins for Christmas’ donation drive. They are all truly living the school’s mission, ‘Love One Another,’” said Stephanie Garza, St. Pius X principal. “The giving spirit is very much alive here and the students have definitely gone above and beyond, knowing they are helping make Christmas special for those who are in need.”
The idea for the “Coins for Christmas” fundraiser started with Debbie Merkel, who teaches junior high religion at the school.
“The school works with our Society of St. Vincent de Paul often. We have always provided them with toys during our annual toy drive, but this year we wanted it to be more personal,” Merkel said.
School leaders asked SVdP members to come speak to students after Mass about the society’s service and who members help.
“I asked them to pick out a specific family we could provide for during Christmas,” explained Merkel, noting that the society informed students of a mother and four children, one of whom had leukemia. “They told us a bit about each child, which helped the kids to see they are helping real people.”
Students then toured the SVdP food pantry.
“It was so the kids could actually see what happens with their donations as we had just done a food drive for them,” Merkel said. “I think all of these things made this fundraiser more real to them as they knew who they were helping.”
Merkel said the initial goal of the “Coins for Christmas” fundraiser was to raise $25 per homeroom.
“We put it out there as contributions from the kids. We asked the students to ask their parents for jobs they could do to earn money — hence I thought ‘Coins for Christmas’ — knowing sometimes that little amounts can really add up,” Merkel said. “And boy did they.”
Merkel said students embraced the challenge, doing jobs to earn coins, searching couch cushions, making signs for carpool line, and event creating a social media commercial to promote the fundraiser.
“The amount of money raised exceeded our expectations,” Merkel said. “The reaction of the students at Mass when they heard from the SVdP representative how much they raised brought tears to the eyes of many in the church.”
St. Pius X eighth-grader Olivia Joseph said the students were ecstatic when they learned that they had raised enough money to support more than one family.
“It’s incredible to see our students put so much effort into assisting the family we sponsored,” she said. “Being a part of ‘Coins for Christmas’ was a fantastic experience that I would do again.”
Meanwhile classmate Oliver Maceda said he felt the project helped students embrace the mission of Catholic schools.
“In attending a Catholic school, students often learn how to praise God through our education and prayer,” he explained. “However, our acts of service help to show our love for others through Christ. When we help and care for others, we act as images of God.”
Carol Newman, treasurer for SVdP at St. Pius X, said the society members love the support they receive from the school community, noting that it has been a long-standing tradition for the school children to provide toys and food for the parish’s neighbors in need.
“We like to include the school-age children so we can foster a sense of belonging to a greater, bigger world than just their small community,” Newman said. “We believe we are planting seeds for future Vincentians when these children realize that taking care of the least of God’s people is their reason for being on this Earth.”
Eighth-grader Isabelle Gaudet agreed, saying the project did help the student body experience “true service.”
“It was a gift to see my brother and friends start to care and understand the hardships of the less fortunate through this project.”