From one All Saints to another: Canton school's Lenten drive lifts families in need

All Saints Catholic School student council members, staff representatives, and a volunteer parent delivered hygiene products and clothing items to All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in Detroit on April 4. The school volunteers sorted the clothing and toiletries into individual-sized bags, and assisted in distributing the products to guests. Students served lunches to the patrons and helped with clean-up at the end of the day. (Photos courtesy of Michele Santillan)

Students help deliver hundreds of hygiene products, socks and toothbrushes to Detroit soup kitchen and food pantry

CANTON — Maybe it's the shared name. Or maybe it's the fact that a Catholic education brings out the best in students. 

But whatever it is, All Saints Catholic School in Canton is serious about its ongoing commitment to the All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in southwest Detroit. 

During the school's recent Lenten hygiene and clothing drive, families donated 199 pairs of women's socks, 373 pairs of men's socks, 110 toothbrushes, 167 containers of women's deodorant, and numerous other toiletries and garments that will serve the soup kitchen's guests.

“We are grateful for the support from the All Saints School families,” said Dave Allen, program manager at All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, which is a program of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan. The group has been “phenomenal in helping us,” he said.

For more than five years, the school has hosted collections to benefit the All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry. The two organizations, which happen to share the All Saints name, partner to assist members of the Metro Detroit community.

When the delivery was made from the Lenten collection, All Saints student council representatives, staff members and a parent volunteer brought three vehicles of hope to the facility. Each grade level at All Saints had been assigned a specific product category to donate.

“We had conversations with our students about the reasons we were collecting socks and underwear — things we take for granted,” said Amy Roose, a sixth- and seventh-grade religion teacher and student council mentor at All Saints School. “This is the stark reality that people just a few miles from us face, and we wanted our students to be aware of that.”

All Saints student council representatives help deliver hygiene products and clothing to All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in Detroit.

The student council members went to work right away — unloading the vehicles, setting up tables, sorting the hygiene products and clothing, and preparing to serve guests at lunchtime. The students brought soup kitchen patrons their meals and then helped to clean up.

“It was a very good experience for me,” said Aidan Rund, an eighth-grader at All Saints. “It was eye-opening to see the struggles for many people who come to the soup kitchen. It made me more thankful for all of the blessings in my life.”

“I felt very happy to be helping out at the soup kitchen,” added seventh-grader Isabelle Ahme. “I would love to come back and do it again. I will be praying for every person I saw today.”

All Saints principal Kristen Strausbaugh called it “a wonderful opportunity for us to continue this partnership with our namesake.”

“Having the students help deliver the gifts is a great way for us to strengthen our partnership and make an even stronger connection with the people we are helping,” Strausbaugh said.

Each November, All Saints School families sign up to buy specific gifts for those in need. Students and teachers wrap the gifts in school in advance of delivery. This past Christmas, 115 Detroit-area youngsters received more than 600 gifts donated by families from All Saints as part of the school's Advent Giving Tree program.

“I have seen recipients who are moved to tears because they know they can provide Christmas presents for their children,” Strausbaugh said. 

Past gifts have included bikes, tricycles, toys, clothing, and even a fully assembled dollhouse. During their December visit, students making the delivery received a tour of the location, which was the site of the now-closed All Saints Church.

In addition to the Lenten drive and Advent giving tree programs, All Saints Catholic School has sponsored other collections through the years for food and school supplies to assist families served by the All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.

The informal partnership began a few years ago, when the school's Catholic identity committee was looking for community service opportunities for students and their families. The committee embraced the idea of sharing with the organization that shares their name. As the school's population has grown over the years, the number of families helped has also increased.

As an ongoing reminder of the All Saints nomenclature connection, metal letters from the former church were donated to All Saints Catholic School and are prominently featured in the school's main office. The Canton school also has a bell from the old property and is seeking to refurbish and display it.

Michele Santillan is director of advancement and marketing for All Saints Catholic School in Canton.