By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Want to get something done? Involve third graders.
St. Charles Borromeo teachers Kristine Schemmel and Sara Westerman found that out in a hurry when they challenged their third graders to lead the school’s annual drive for books and soup for distribution to agencies that serve the poor.
Principal Ann Lachowitzer apparently underestimated the power of the third graders and the rest of her school when she set a goal of 300 books and maybe 1,000 cans of soup or so for the 186 students from pre-school through eighth grade.
And she apparently didn’t know that the one third grader’s father — who wants to remain anonymous — used a connection with the food industry to land a single big donation of soup.
The final tally?
Books: 965, to be given to Reach Out and Read, an agency that gathers and distributes books to low-income children who have few, if any, books at home.
Soup: More than 32,000 cans, which will be split between the St. Charles Parish food pantry and the Bishop Sullivan Center, an agency serving the poor in three locations in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Deacon Jim Olshefski, who manages the parish pantry, was overwhelmed, calling the drive “absolutely essential for our parish food pantry.”
“This soup enables us to weather the lean months during the summer when soup, which has become quite expensive, is not readily available through other distribution channels,” Deacon Olshefski said.
Likewise impressed was Janice Dobbs, book coordinator for Reach Out and Read.
“They came up with over three times their goal. Way to go,” Dobbs said.
She said the donation from St. Charles is part of Reach Out’s “Hooked on Books” drive that involves schools from throughout the Kansas City area.
“The purpose of ‘Hooked on Books’ is to get books in the hands of students who need them,” Dobbs said. “We partner with local schools to encourage students to donate books so that other families that do not have books can have them. We certainly congratulate St. Charles students for being so generous.”
Ask them why they felt it was important to feed the minds and bodies of the poor and the third graders will recite the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, as well as chunks of the Gospels.
Abby Munn put it quite succinctly: “People will die without food.”
“God created them and me,” said Landon Tolson. “That makes us all brothers and sisters.”
“We’re all people and we all care about each other,” said Turner White.
“If we want someone to give to us, then we should give to other people,” said Lauren Baddoo.
“I brought them in because they were hungry,” said Joseph Van Dyke. “Christians care about everyone.”
“I brought in a bunch of books my aunt gave me. I read them all and I don’t need them anymore. Other kids need them,” said Ireland Raney.