When reports of the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey hit the news, students and parents of local Catholic schools jumped into action, thinking of creative ways to help those in need.
“I don’t like when people suffer and they don’t deserve it,” said Lucas Hernandez, a sixth-grader at Sacred Heart School in Washington.
Hernandez had the idea to organize a “jeans day” for his school, where students would bring in donations for hurricane victims in order to wear jeans instead of their uniform for a day. He worked together with his class to make flyers to pass out, and made an announcement during the school’s morning prayer.
He has a cousin that lives in Texas, and knew that a lot of the other students in his school also had family members in the state who were likely affected. In the end, the jeans day raised $802, which was sent to the National Catholic Educational Association for their Student-to-Student hurricane relief program. Through that program, Catholic schools across the country are raising funds to help other Catholic schools in Texas and Florida that have been damaged by hurricanes.
Hernandez said he thought the result of the jeans day was “unbelievable,” because normally those days only raise about $200.
“It made me happy because it shows me that there are a lot of people who trust God, and they listen to God and God touches them,” he said.
Father Andrew White, S.J. School in Leonardtown held a Texas-themed “tag day,” which similarly allow students to wear clothes other than their uniforms. They raised over $1,000, which will be sent to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who have a disaster relief team going to the Houston area in October.
St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington also held a jeans day, and St. Francis Xavier Academy in Washington held a student-led prayer service for hurricane victims. Sacred Heart, St. Anthony, and St. Francis Xavier are all members of the Consortium of Catholic Academies, a network of Catholic schools in Washington that reach out to underserved communities in the nation’s capital.
St. Peter’s School in Olney and St. Mary’s School in Rockville collected donations for Hurricane Harvey victims, which were then loaded onto a large truck provided by Top Dog Services, a company owned by St. Mary’s parishioner Todd Dickerson. They asked for specific items that people needed, such as bottles of water, gift cards, bleach, undergarments and toiletries.
St. Mary’s partnered with the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department and Rockville City Police Department to collect the donations and load the truck, which was then driven down to Houston by Alex Cederbaum, a Top Dog employee and volunteer fire fighter who used to attend St. Mary’s School.
“Firefighters are action-oriented people. They don’t just sit around,” said Eric Bernard, the president and chairman of the board for the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department. When they heard from a Texas fire station that they were in need of donations, “we acted,” he said.
Dickerson was first inspired to do something to help out one day when he came home from visiting his father in a nursing home. As soon as he got home, he turned on the TV and saw the picture of residents of a Florida nursing home sitting waist deep in floodwater. When he saw that, he said, ‘We’ve got to do something.”
Todd Dickerson and his brother, Kyle Dickerson, both attended St. Mary’s as children, and now Todd’s kids attend the school. Kyle has children at St. Peter’s, so he decided to get that school involved.
On Sept. 8, the group was outside St. Mary’s collecting donations and loading the truck from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Todd Dickerson said they saw hundreds of people come by, including students, parishioners, community members, and people who just saw them as they were driving by and decided to go buy donations.
Todd Dickerson’s older daughters attend Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, so they also collected donations at that school’s Sept. 8 football game. Likewise, St. John’s College High School in Washington held a fundraiser of their own at their Sept. 9 football game, collecting monetary donations and offering a portion of the concessions sold to hurricane victims. Plus, one of the school’s alums agreed to match up to $1,000 in donations. In total, St. John’s raised $3,300.
“This is what our faith is built on: giving back to people in need,” said Todd Dickerson.
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