Taking this message to heart, Mrs. Merryman’s Theology 12 class also took action bringing Advent service projects to life in this 2020 Christmas Season. Each of her six classes chose a different charity, directors of each group were named and it was under this student leadership that each class came together in a complete team effort.

Thrilled with the outcome of their efforts, Mrs. Merryman commented, “Catholic social teaching tells us that we have a responsibility to give others what they need and not judge them. That’s what true Catholics do.”  Thrilled with the results of these students’ efforts, she went on to stress that, “They all worked together to bring their ideas to fruition and I am overwhelmed with the outcome and outpouring of donations. From the talent of the students who sewed masks to the donations they secured, they did a top-notch job that they should all be proud of.”

Speaking on behalf of their classmates and co-directors, each project below is summarized by a member of each class. Please take note that these projects were a complete team effort!

Lutheran Care Center - Dutchess Turnpike, Poughkeepsie:  Directors Juliet Lucci and Mason Sala
Donation of 60 care packages  

“We picked Lutheran Care Center because we know how lonely care centers and retirement homes can get during the holidays especially during COVID.  Personally, I came up with this idea because my grandpa was very lonely during the quarantine, where he was not able to see his family and felt like he had no one to talk to. We decided to make Christmas stockings filled with puzzle books, handmade masks, socks, and other little Christmas gifts to help put a smile on their faces. In each stocking, we are including a personal Christmas card that each student in the class has made. Some of the students in the class were able to donate items for this. The O’Reilly family donated 30 pairs of socks and Mrs. Merryman and some other students were able to buy the stockings and puzzle books. Arden Terapane, Gabbie Muray, and Matthew Ong are all making homemade masks. As a class, I feel as if we all learned that no one should be left out. We should care for others just like we do our families even if we do not know them. Just like Jesus did, he strived to make sure everyone is loved and happy and that is what we are simply trying to do!”
~ Juliet Lucci

River Haven Youth Shelter - Thompson St, Poughkeepsie Directors Patricia Scully and Leah Schank
Donation of 60 self-care packages for teenagers.  

“We are making Christmas-themed care packages for homeless teenagers. Some items that we have purchased include deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, nail polish, hand sanitizer, and toothpaste, and toothbrushes. We are including handwritten notes in the baggies wishing the teens a Merry Christmas and writing that they are in our thoughts. Our class has learned a lot from this service project. We have been taught that although life may be hard, especially in the time of COVID-19, always be grateful for what you have and to never take it for granted. We have learned that it is so easy to give to those less fortunate when we all work together.”

~ Patricia Scully

Zion Episcopal Church Food Pantry - Wappingers Falls:  Directors Emmanuel Anozie and Noah Senchak

“Our class organized a school-wide food drive. We are collecting non-perishable goods as well as some toiletries to be donated. All of our items collected will be donated to the food pantry within the Zion Episcopal Church. From this project, my class has learned the importance of helping our neighbor; when one suffers we all suffer.” ~ Noah Senchack

Newburgh Ministry - Newburgh:  Directors Ryan Murphy and Luke Recine 

Donations of Hats, Gloves, and Blankets (contact - Sister Norma Carney)

“We chose this service project to collect cold-weather clothing for the upcoming winter months for the homeless. When I thought of this idea, I did not have a destination in mind, but when I presented this idea to the class, one of my fellow students knew of the Newburgh Ministry. We are collecting blankets, hats, gloves, scarves, and socks. All the items were donated from the students in my class and will be delivered to the Newburgh Ministry on December 18th. By doing this service project, I have learned that we need to take care of those who need help in any way that we can. It is important to help those who are less fortunate so that we can spread Christ’s love for us with those around us. ~ Ryan Murphy

Poughkeepsie Children’s Home - Poughkeepsie  Directors Moira Kennedy, Sophia Conte and Bailey Fredericks

Gift Wish List Donations      

“This organization provides healing and hope to the children and teens in the foster care system who have suffered abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. We chose this organization because we felt a close personal connection, as many of the people helped by this organization are fellow teens in our local area. Each year, the Children’s Home publishes a wish list of gifts for the children and teens. We are collecting and donating items on this wishlist (ranging from crafts to clothes, to fast food gift cards, to hygiene products). Along with these donations, we will also be making cards with messages of love and encouragement.  I have learned the importance of seeking those who are right near us. There are so many opportunities to serve others right in our communities. I have also learned the great impact that communal efforts can have. Each student providing at least one gift will have a much more significant impact than if one donated alone, and it will help to ensure that as many teens as possible are granted their gift wishes this Christmas. ~ Moira Kennedy

Midnight Run, Inc. - Dobbs Ferry:  Director Jennifer Bellino

“Midnight Run is a non-profit that sends out groups to New York City to directly distribute clothing, food, personal care items, and other things to the homeless on the streets. We chose this because, for the past couple of years, I have volunteered to be in one of these groups led by St. Columba Church in Hopewell Jct. Midnight Run is truly an incredible organization that makes a huge difference in so many lives.  We are collecting warm winter clothing, personal care items, blankets, etc. and these items can be both donated and purchased as long as they are in good condition. From this experience, I have grown more passionate about helping the homeless population in NYC who have statistically suffered the most from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to New York overall. Additionally, the cold winter months are approaching quickly, and the homeless deserve clothes and blankets that will keep them warm. ~ Jennifer Bellino

Sisters of Life (NYC) and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (Patterson, NJ) - Director Hannah McConologue

“The organizations my class are donating to are the Sisters of Life and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal simultaneously.  I chose both of these communities because the Sisters take care of women in need, while the Friars care for the poor men in need; working with these two groups simultaneously will do wonders in our duties to the poor! 

The Sisters of Life is an Augustinian Order of religious nuns that vows to protect every human life, especially those in the womb and the mothers caring for them. The Sisters are based in New York but are located in Philadelphia, Denver, Phoenix, Washington D.C., and Toronto to reach out to pregnant mothers in need who don’t have enough resources to raise her baby. They house these mothers and care for them during their pregnancy and up to six months postpartum. 

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal is a group of religious friars and priests under the rule of St Francis of Assisi. These friars are also based in New York, but they are located across the US, and are also in four other countries and three continents, serving the poor and the homeless. The friars have a homeless shelter for men in the Bronx called “St. Anthony’s Shelter of the Renewal”; they house homeless men and give warm meals to the poor. 

Both of these religious orders and the people they serve live off of donations only because of the vow of poverty taken by both groups. Therefore, in order to uphold the services given to these men and women in need, it is important that donations are given to them. 

To the CFR’s my group is donating men’s clothes, underwear, toiletries, and items and to the Sisters, we are donating women’s maternity clothes, underwear, feminine products, toiletries, children’s clothes, children’s toiletries, and toys. Then to both organizations, all students are writing two handwritten letters, one of which will go to a man being served, and another will go to a pregnant mom in need. Writing these notes will give the men and women words of encouragement in these hard times in his or her life and will help them feel known, seen, and loved. 

From this project, I am really encountering poverty in a way I haven’t before. Yes, I am not physically encountering the poor because of this pandemic, but purchasing these items, writing these letters, and organizing this fundraiser project really has made me grateful for all I have. Nowadays, everyone has so much to complain about. There is always something to complain about. But when we stop being so self-absorbed and invested in ourselves and start encountering true poverty, there is truly a beauty that comes out of it. The CFR’s and the Sisters of life choose to live in poverty, and they live in so much joy and freedom; they radiate that freedom they have found in their poverty, and they spread that light to the people they serve– the people that don’t choose poverty. It makes us wonder who are one’s who are actually poor? Is it really the homeless man on the street or is it Bill Gates? Working with the poor in such a way and with such great faith in Christ changes everything.” ~ Hannah McConologue