From left, Fairwinds Redmond resident Cynthia Zerbe, activity director Randee Young and residents Penny Niemela and Char Vasilatos with Needs Kits they assembled with hygiene items to be distributed to homeless students of the Lake Washington School District. Courtesy photo

St. Jude-led Service Day Program helps fight poverty

As poverty becomes more prevalent and visible throughout the greater Puget Sound area, members of St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond are working to increase awareness and educate others.

For seven years, the church has had a Service Day Program with the mission of bringing organizations and volunteers together to help people living in Eastside communities who are experiencing the effect of poverty, loss of employment and abuse.

The goal of the program is to teach adults and children at St. Jude about the importance of helping others.

The service day is overseen by Sister Betty Schumacher, Joanne Cunningham as program coordinator and Molly Boll in fundraising.

This year’s day is scheduled for March 25. On this day, families from St. Jude will participate in a number of service projects.

The first project is assembling Pantry Packs. These are bags of food that are distributed to local schools through Hopelink, a nonprofit organization that focuses on serving homeless and low-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities in north and east King County. The packs go to children who need food on the weekends as they may not have access to food like they do during the week through federal programs at school.

Families will also assemble Needs Kits with hygiene products that will go to homeless students in the Lake Washington School District. Kits will also go to the New Bethlehem Project,a day center in Kirkland for families experiencing homelessness on the Eastside, as well as LifeWire, a nonprofit whose mission is to end domestic violence.

Each pack or kit will also contain a motivational card made and decorated by children of the church.

In addition, 100 sack lunches will be made for Camp Unity Eastside, which is currently staying at St. Jude, and Operation Nightwatch in Seattle.

Participants will also assemble and decorate 100 small flower pots and plant flowers in them. The flower pots will be delivered to local nursing homes.

The final service projects will be yard work, house work and maintenance projects at the Friendly Village — a 55-and-older mobile home community in Redmond — yard work and cleaning at St. Jude and donating food products to the Holy Family Parish Food Bank.

“It’s all done on this one day,” Boll said.

In addition to teaching the importance of helping others, Boll said another goal of the service day is to teach young children and teens to have empathy for those who are less fortunate and for them to have hands-on experience helping.

“It doesn’t work to have a ‘me, me’ society,” Boll said.

Since its inception, the service day has involved just members of St. Jude. But this year, the program has expanded to include senior living communities throughout the Eastside.

Boll said they wanted to get the elderly involved and have older people and younger people doing something together.

The senior living communities participating in this year’s service day are Emerald Heights and Fairwinds in Redmond; Fairwinds Brittany Park in Woodinville; Brookdale, Merrill Gardens and Madison House in Kirkland; and the Sunrise communities in Bellevue, Bothell and Northgate.

While St. Jude parishioners will do all of the service work on March 25, Boll said residents in these communities have been donating and assembling Pantry Packs and Needs Kits all month. In addition, they are also decorating motivational cards to be included in each pack or kit.

Boll said people don’t always pay attention to those living in poverty. The motivational cards are a way to show recipients that they are not being ignored.

If people wish to contribute financially, they can mail checks before March 19 to St. Jude Parish, 10526 166th Ave. N.E., Redmond, WA 98052. Checks should also be marked for Service Day.

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