Local Schools

Catholic school students fill barrels to the brim

From left, Lenexa’s St. James Academy students Terry Irvine, Andrew Brown, Julia Kropf (wearing a black mask), Meghan Starkey, Lindsay Russell (wearing a blue mask), Emma Chik, Grace Radke, Danny Walsh and Bridget Walsh hold items they collected for Giving the Basics. St. James donated nearly 25,000 products to the organization during Catholic Schools Week. PHOTO COURTESY OF ST. JAMES ACADEMY

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Curé of Ars School in Leawood has hosted a handful of Dignity Drives for Giving the Basics during Catholic Schools Week.

But for assistant principal Jared Herzet, the experience never gets old.

“It’s crazy during that week,” he said, “because we have barrels sitting all over our different entrances and hallways.

“And then, as they start overflowing, I’m going around with a cart and trying to pile [the products] up onto the cart so people can get through the hallways.”

It’s a good problem to have. This year, Curé donated more than 11,300 items to Giving the Basics.

“You’ll see kids walking in [that week], and they’re so excited to donate to that cause,” said Herzet. “That’s why we keep doing it.”

‘The heart of the community’

Giving the Basics is “Kansas City’s hygiene hub,” said president and CEO Teresa Hamilton, a parishioner at Queen of the Holy Rosary in Wea.

The organization supplies basic hygiene products to more than 250,000 people each month.

Based in Kansas City, Kansas, its growth over the years has prompted a move into the national market.

Locally, Giving the Basics provides hygiene products for Catholic schools in Missouri. Kansas Catholic schools are currently in the process of registering for its services, too. It also provides for Catholic Charities food pantries.

Hamilton said that because these products are not covered by government assistance, many people go without and struggle to keep clean.

The need has been even greater lately because of COVID-19.

Fortunately, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas stepped up in a big way.

During Catholic Schools Week, Curé, Ascension School in Overland Park, St. James Academy in Lenexa and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park held Dignity Drives for the organization.

St. Thomas Aquinas students collected more than 10,000 rolls of toilet paper for Giving the Basics during Catholic Schools Week. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

Their zeal for the drives is amazing, said Hamilton.

“The students have a heart for other children that are going without,” she said.

“You can really see the heart of the community come through when the schools get involved,” she added.

St. James seniors Justine Bichelmeyer and Ipo Watts organized their school’s drive this year.

Because of their efforts, St. James collected nearly 25,000 hygiene items.

“It feels amazing to know how many people were affected and how many lives we were able to reach,” said Bichelmeyer. “Our community went above and beyond, and the love that they showed was incredible.”

The experience makes Bichelmeyer even more grateful for her Catholic education.

“Whenever we are gifted opportunities like these and our mission as a school is fulfilled, I find myself realizing how different and wonderful my education has been,” she said.

Shaped by Catholic schools

Madison Hamilton, communications and marketing coordinator for Giving the Basics, knows firsthand the impact service opportunities can have on a student’s future.

She joined the organization in 2017.

“When I first heard about their mission and why it has to exist, I was deeply moved,” said Madison.

“I know that the work Giving the Basics does is vital to health, hope and dignity for our community,” she added.

Attending St. James Academy helped inspire Madison Hamilton to find a career where she could help others. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO

Madison is a product of Catholic schools. She attended St. James and said her time there made a lasting impact on her life.

It taught her that “even the days when my work seems small, I can offer it all as a prayer,” she said. “My choice to work at Giving the Basics was greatly shaped by that.”

Seeing young people continue to have similar learning opportunities is exciting for Madison.

“It is really special to see students working so hard to help other students, families, seniors, veterans, etc., [who] they will most likely never get to see,” she said.

Herzet also believes in the power of Catholic education.

“I think it is very unique to Catholic schools — our willingness to give back to those in our community that need it,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to learn [service],” he added, “which I don’t think they get everywhere else.”

How to help

Giving the Basics relies on donations and volunteers. Check out the links below to discover the various ways you can help.

To learn more about Giving the Basics, visit the website at: givingthebasics.org.

To host a product drive and have barrels delivered to your company or organization, go online to: givingthebasics.org/how-to-give/dignity-drive.

To sign up for a virtual online product drive, go online to: givingthebasics.org/how-to-give/virtual-product-drive.

To volunteer, visit: givingthebasics.org/get-involved/volunteer.

To donate online, go online to: givingthebasics.org/donate-kansas-city.

To donate by mail, send a check to: Giving the Basics, 927 S. 7th  St., Kansas City,  KS 66105.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage the website, social media channels and Archbishop Naumann's Facebook page. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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