By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LEE’S SUMMIT — Our Lady of the Presentation Church and School are in Lee’s Summit, but their outreach extends into Independence and Kansas City. Through a variety of fundraising events, students and their families have been able to make donations to charities and community service organizations across the metro area to help those in need.
Each grade partners with such an organization, said school principal Jodi Briggs. According to Angela Swearingin, school counselor and Student Council moderator, the kindergarten class partners with Heifer International and John Knox Village Alzheimer’s Unit; first graders with the parish’s Widows Group and Valley View Residential Care; second grade partners with Catholic Charities; third grade with Hope House; fourth graders partner with the parish’s sister community, San Rafael Cedros in El Salvador; fifth grade with Little Sisters of the Poor; sixth graders partner with Project Uplift; seventh grade with Blair’s Foster Socks, and eighth grade with Operation Breakthrough child care center and preschool.
On Nov. 23, just before Thanksgiving, students presented Lee’s Summit Social Services and Operation Breakthrough with cash donations from the annual Turkey Trot community 5K run/walk, and sacks of food collected at the Student Council Sack Mass. The seventh grade presented Blair’s Foster Socks with 1,484 pairs of socks collected over several weeks and $271.34 in cash. Blair Shanahan Lane was an 11- year-old student at Nativity of Mary School in Independence, who was struck by celebratory gunfire July 4, 2011 and died the next day. She had been passionate about helping those in need, especially children in foster care, who often need clothing and socks. Her mother, Michelle Lane DeMoss, continues her mission through Blair’s Foster Socks. The non-profit also helps families in crisis, such as victims of fire.
Swearingin said Our Lady of the Presentation strives to emphasize the importance of service to its students. “Each grade level embraces their community partners,” she said. “The students spearhead their own programs and projects which gets them more involved.”
The proceeds of an earlier project —collecting baby clothes and care items — were divided between Hope House (serving women and children traumatized by domestic violence), Mother’s Refuge (serving homeless pregnant teenagers and their babies), and Rachel House (a resource center for pregnant women who change their minds about having an abortion), and presented the proceeds at a Mass Sept. 8 at Nativity of Mary Church.
Eighth graders collected quantities of toilet paper, which they donated to Operation Breakthrough.
Students spoke enthusiastically about the programs they had participated in. Eighth grader Nina Kish said, “The Sack Mass was really cool to see! Everyone was collecting everything! So many cars piled high with cans; the kids in 6th to 8th grades collected money. It was amazing! The money was used to buy Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys for poor families. It was nice to know that while I was around the table with my family, other kids were doing the same thing — enjoying Thanksgiving.”
Seventh graders Lily Sage and Preston May also spoke about the service programs. Lily likes that “all the grades in the school can come together and do something amazing for others; not just thinking about ourselves.”
The sock collection for Blair’s Foster Socks began in mid-October and continued for several weeks. Preston said, “Blair’s mom helped us understand what helping others is all about. I was really proud and amazed at how big the sock collection was, all those different pairs of socks!”
Lily summed up the school’s service program as helping the homeless and others in need, whatever that need is — homes, food, clothing, socks — figure their way through the world.
Our Lady of the Presentation Parish is still giving to children in need. A parish-wide effort to assist clients of Bishop Sullivan Center resulted in 720 pairs of new shoes and $5,920 in cash contributions. In early November, parishioners were asked to commit to a year of prayer and service as their annual Stewardship Renewal.
The first service project of the renewal was the Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. Jane Krawczyk, Our Lady of the Presentation Director of Stewardship said she was thrilled with the shoe drive for Bishop Sullivan Center.
“We saw our parishioners fully live out God’s call to share their gifts with those in need,” Krawczyk said. Many children served by Bishop Sullivan Center have never owned a new pair of shoes, she added.
Tom Turner, director of Bishop Sullivan Center, said the agency planned to visit one urban school each month to fit students with new shoes. The first school that was to be visited was Faxon Elementary School at 32nd Terrace and Paseo in Kansas City on Dec. 15.