art of the mission statement of St. Ambrose Catholic School in Seymour is to give service to the community.

On the second Friday of each month of the school year, seventh-graders help with Meals on Wheels, and eighth-graders go to Community Provisions of Jackson County.

During National Catholic Schools Week, which was celebrated Jan. 31 through Feb. 6, all of St. Ambrose’s students were involved in service projects.

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On Wednesday, kindergartners through fourth-graders put together survival kits for the homeless; fifth-graders helped at Girls Inc. of Jackson County; sixth-graders filled paper bags with food at Community Provisions; seventh-graders organized clothes at the Jackson County Clothing Center; and eighth-graders visited the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis.

“We do it to show our students that we are a community and there are people that need help in our community, and it relies on everybody to work together to help our community grow and to keep running and to show our service as Christians to help others,” said Allison Wheeler, a sixth-grade teacher who accompanied students at Community Provisions.

That food pantry is directly behind the school, so Wheeler and 13 sixth-graders walked there and spent an hour filling more than 70 paper bags with food. That included canned vegetables and fruit, boxes of cornbread, jars of peanut butter, cans of soup, boxes of macaroni and cheese and packets of gravy.

Working together

Wheeler was impressed with the students since it was their first time helping at the food pantry.“They worked together really well,” she said. “They also have been together since they were in kindergarten, most of our students, so we don’t really have a whole lot of new students coming in.

“We had one new student this year, and they get in there and they work together and they welcome everybody. They are used to working together, so when we come to things like this or they are thrown in, they kind of already know how to work together, which makes it an easier process.”

Carson Carpenter and Sarah Lemming were among the sixth-graders helping at Community Provisions.

“It was definitely faster and easier,” Carson said of working together. “It was an opportunity for us to help everybody who doesn’t have the same fortune as others.”

Sarah said it was fun gathering food to place in the bags.

“I like that we were all able to bond together and help at the same time,” she said. “It’s faster and easier that way.”

Both students said they hope it encourages everyone to get involved in the community.

“It’s definitely good because it can inspire other people to help here or anywhere. It’s fun, and it feels good to help people out, help those in need who can’t have food,” Carson said.

“We’re giving back to our community,” Sarah said. “It makes your town a better place if you’re helping out.”

Wheeler said the sixth-graders had so much fun that they are excited about being able to do community service each month as seventh-graders.

“They look forward to going and doing things like that because it’s different,” she said. “They actually get to go out into the community, where they get to see something different, which opens up their eyes to something they are not used to seeing. They know as Christians that they want to help people, so we show them ways to help people.”

HELPING OTHERS

In the afternoon, April Eaton, a history and social studies teacher at St. Ambrose, took two different groups of seventh-graders to the clothing center on North Pine Street. Six helped in the first session, and five were a part of the second session.“It shows them to get out and help the community and to stay close to God and that God will help them,” Eaton said. “Religion is something we are centered around, and I think they really enjoy getting out and helping the community and just helping others.”

Ewan Hernandez and two of his seventh-grade classmates helped put boys clothes on hangers. He said he had volunteered at the clothing center before.

“It’s good to just be together,” he said. “It’s better to do with friends than by yourself.”

Ewan said it’s important to help out a good cause when you can.

“It’s important to always keep your faith next to you, and God will always help you if you help the needy. God will always be with you,” he said.

In another room at the clothing center, seventh-grader Avery Ragon and two of her classmates helped organize girls clothes in plastic bins.

It was her first time helping at the clothing center.

“A lot of people donate here, and a lot of people need clothes,” Avery said.

She was having a good time volunteering.

“As Catholics, we’re supposed to serve others, so we’re serving others by coming in and doing work here,” Avery said.

Eaton said it was a good experience for the students.

“I think it is an eye-opener for a lot of them to get out and to see that people in the community need their help,” she said. “Our younger kids at school, they see the older kids get to go out and do these things, and it’s something for them to look forward to, as well. I think it kind of keeps them to their roots and centered around faith and helping people.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.