by Cori Hilsgen
The holidays can be a very stressful time for people who lose their jobs, are diagnosed with a medical illness or receive unexpected bills, but residents in St. Joseph are spreading good cheer by donating and helping others in need.
Kennedy Community School Principal Laurie Putnam said she is thankful for the generosity of others at the school. Some of those good deeds include donations to help clear lunch-account balances for students whose parents are behind in paying up the accounts. Teacher Kelly Haeg’s father, Thomas Backes of Backes Construction Co., donated $1,000 to pay off lunch accounts and to provide funds to each classroom teacher for snacks, school supplies or winter clothing for students in need. An anonymous donor also donated $100 to clear lunch accounts.
Other good deeds include the following:
The Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict donated $400 for greatest need.
Central Minnesota Credit Union and Mission Nutrition each sponsored a Kennedy family for the holidays.
An anonymous donor through the St. Joseph Police Department sponsored three Kennedy families for the holidays.
An anonymous local business sponsored a Kennedy family for the holidays.
The Granite City Rotary donated hats and mittens.
Kennedy staff raised $350 to support Kennedy families for the holidays.
The St. Joseph Jaycees donated $250, and the Kennedy Parent Teacher Association donated $1,200. Many of these funds will be used for a program called IXL which supports students in reading and mathematics achievement.
Putnam said they use their lists to determine needs. Those lists include names of families receiving free/reduced lunch; and families who approach the school with unique needs, such as a health crisis and more, that are impacting their financial/home situation.
The school’s free/reduced lunch percentage has increased to 37 percent from 30 percent last year.
“On behalf of our students and staff, I extend our deepest gratitude for the generosity of our St. Joseph community,” Putnam said. ” One of the things that makes our school so special is the high level of involvement and care given to us by our surrounding community. I’ve heard from many of the families who’ve received support over the holiday season, and they feel tremendously grateful. Thanks to the kindness of many in our school and broader community, we can ensure more students have the food, clothing and supplies they need to have a healthy and happy holiday season.”
Kennedy seventh- and eighth-grade students who are part of “WE Act” collected toys for the local Toys for Tots drive. WE Act is an organization that believes adolescents are capable of changing the world.
Students and staff at All Saints Academy recently collected donations and filled shoe boxes for Place of Hope Ministries in St. Cloud, an organization that helps homeless people in the area. The shoeboxes were filled with games, snack items, school supplies, hats and gloves and other items for children who are ages infant to teenager.
The St. Joseph Y2K Lions recently donated $1,000 to the St. Joseph Community Food Shelf. The donation will be matched through the Norman C. Skaliky Foundation, which matched every dollar donated up to an amount of $100,000 by Jan. 1, to three area food shelves – the St. Joseph Community Food Shelf, Catholic Charities and St. Cloud Salvation Army.
“We try to support local ventures such as the food shelf,” St. Joseph Y2K Lions President Kay Lemke said.
Y2K Lions member Julie Gravgaard is now a co-coordinator at the St. Joseph Area Food Shelf. The group also donated $1,682 to the food shelf in June.
The group recently donated $250 each to the St. Joseph Catholic Parish, Resurrection Lutheran Church and Anna Marie’s Alliance for its greatest needs, as well as $300 to the Poor Claire’s Monastery for heating, $200 to the St. Joseph Senior Citizens, $200 to CentraCare Foundation’s “Angel on Earth” Hospice Program, $100 to the All Saints Academy workathon and $500 to Catholic Charities for clothing needs.
The St. Joseph Lions recently donated $40,000 to the city for the Millstream Park shelter building. They also raised $1,200 for the Juvenile Diabetic Research Foundation.
“I am happy to have two successful years of the Juvenile Diabetic Research Foundation fundraiser,” said Lions member Matt Killam. “I know the donations go to a great place. They help new diabetics through their tough journey and make large strides in research for the cure.”
The Lions also plan to donate $500 to Kennedy Community School for a Biotical Tower Garden to be put in the school. The school will use the garden to grow plants indoors, and students will be able to observe the process of growth of seeds to maturity.
“The Tower Garden will be a great educational resource for Kennedy for years to come,” Killam said. “I am happy the Lions and Kennedy were able to work together on this project.”
Sentry Bank placed a Giving Tree in the bank lobby Thanksgiving weekend. The St. Joseph Jaycees filled it with paper ornaments that contained mention of an item of need by a local family. Examples of requests include Legos for a 9-year-old boy, a doll for a 4-year-old girl and more.
Residents selected tags, purchased the item of need and returned it to the bank. The Jaycees wrapped the gifts and organized them for families to pick up. If any tags still remained on the tree by a set date, the Jaycees took responsibility of those and completed the purchases.
“This is a great showing of community generosity and the spirit of Christmas,” said Jaycees member Jen Warnert.
She added it’s because of Sentry Bank’s involvement and the Jaycees’ donation funds that come from its charitable gambling at the American Burger Bar and meat raffles at the LaPlayette that the club is able to participate in this event.
The club relies on assistance from other area members to help identify families who would benefit from the event.
Central Minnesota Credit Union staff in St. Joseph donated cash to the local Toys for Tots program to help fund the remaining gifts needed for local families.
Many helping hands helped prepare and serve the Thanksgiving meal held at the Church of St. Joseph Heritage Hall Nov. 19 and the Christmas Dinner Dec. 16 at Resurrection Lutheran Church and Son Rise Lutheran Church of Avon.
Church of St. Joseph parishioners provided gifts of clothing through a Giving Tree for 37 families (130 people). The clothing was distributed to the families along with a food basket from the St. Joseph Community Food Shelf.
Roger and Marjorie Henkemeyer and others helped organize a Christmas Treasures sale in November. Donated Christmas items were sold to raise money for the church’s Organ Restoration Fund. An arts-and-crafts sale held Dec. 1 included a bake sale of donated items from parishioners that also raised funds for the organ restoration. The Faith Formation program also sponsored a bake sale.
Church of St. Joseph business manager Sandra Scholz said Dec. 21 was a wonderful area event with the tree lighting at Bello Cucina’s and visits with Santa Claus because of the generous partnership of people involved. Sentry Bank donated treat bags given out by Santa, Kay’s Kitchen donated cookies and beverages, Central Minnesota Credit Union provided a craft project for children, the St. Joseph Catholic Church opened Heritage Hall to vendors, All Saints Academy sold a turkey sandwich and “sunny roll” meal, organist David Orzechowski provided some piano music, four students from the College of St. Benedict’s sustainability program volunteered and more.
Those are just some of the many good deeds that residents of the St. Joseph area participated in during the holiday season. There were many more, often by anonymous donors, which also helped brighten the lives of people in need.
photo by Cori Hilsgen
St. Joseph Y2K Lions President Kay Lemke presents a $1,000 check to Ann Scherer Dec. 13 at the St. Joseph Community Fire Hall for the St. Joseph Community Food Shelf. The funds will be matched through a matching grant.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.