Gathering the harvest: Church in Metro Detroit collects food for families in need

Students from St. Paul on the Lake School in Grosse Pointe Farms carry boxes of food they collected over the past month that will given to food pantries throughout Detroit. Before loading the food into cars, the donated boxes and cans made up St. Paul's "Soup-er Speedway" in the school gymnasium, a way to have a bit of fun go along with evangelical charity. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

St. Paul on the Lake 'races' to collect 5,313 cans of food; others give away turkeys, veggies, stuffing and corn for Thanksgiving

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — On your marks. Get set. Go collect some canned goods.

Students at St. Paul on the Lake School in Grosse Pointe Farms put a Grand Prix-style twist on collecting food for charity for the holiday season, setting up a “Soup-er Speedway” in the school gym Nov. 17 for remote control cars to race through.

For the past few weeks, St. Paul on the Lake — along with countless schools, parishes and religious groups throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit — have collected food for soup kitchens, food pantries and families in need, a visible sign of the caring arms of Christ.

Food pantries are in need of donations year-round, but the holiday season is often a time of extra need.

It wasn't the first time St. Paul on the Lake decided to get creative with its food collection efforts; this spring, the school collected more than 2,000 boxes of cereal for the poor, which students set up and toppled in a campus-wide domino line.

On Nov. 19, students set up a race track in the school gym and invited the school’s principal, assistant principal and associate pastor to race remote control cars through the track to the sound of cheering students.

St. Paul on the Lake students assembled a race track on the floor of the school gym, where the school's principal, assistant principal and a priest from the parish raced remote-control cars before a school assembly. The winning classes in the school that donated the most food were awarded with a pizza party. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)
St. Paul on the Lake students assembled a race track on the floor of the school gym, where the school's principal, assistant principal and a priest from the parish raced remote-control cars before a school assembly. The winning classes in the school that donated the most food were awarded with a pizza party. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

“For the last couple of weeks, we have been collecting cans of soup, and any canned goods, to donate to those in need,” Connor Curtis, junior high religion teacher at St. Paul on the Lake School, told Detroit Catholic. “At the end, we set up a race course and remote-control cars raced by our principal, assistant principal and one of our priest raced through the cans, having a little bit of fun with evangelical charity.”

The food drive was a friendly competition among the different grades at St. Paul, with the winners getting a pizza party. But Deo Gratias Ministries, Nativity of Our Lord Parish, and the St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen in Detroit were the real winners, as the school collected 5,313 cans and boxes of food for the nonprofits.

“Evangelical charity is how we are supposed to live, and it’s the best way to help others,” said Matteo Marciano, a St. Paul seventh-grader. “All of the classes were driven to win; we’re all very competitive, raising more cans means a better chance for our class to win. But what I’ll remember the most is helping others.”

Fr. Andrew Smith of St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms was the winning driver in the grand prix the school hosted to celebrate how much food it collected. In total, St. Paul on the Lake students collected 5,313 cans and boxes of food. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)
Fr. Andrew Smith of St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms was the winning driver in the grand prix the school hosted to celebrate how much food it collected. In total, St. Paul on the Lake students collected 5,313 cans and boxes of food. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

Fr. Andrew Smith was the winning driver. The 40-year-old priest never thought remote control car racing would be part of his pastoral assignment, but teaching students about evangelical charity certainly is.

“Evangelical charity is just loving others, serving others with the heart of Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel so they know Jesus’ love in the same way we do," Fr. Smith said. "In doing that, we recognize their dignity and worth as human beings, that they are worthy of all the same good things we have received. We’ve been blessed, and it’s our job to share that with others.”

Sisters of Jesus’ Merciful Passion handing out turkey

Each year, the Sisters of Jesus’ Merciful Passion, based out of the Shrine of Jesus the Divine Mercy in Clinton Township, hand out food baskets for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

The food baskets include a packet of gravy, two cans of green beans, two cans of corn, a can of cranberries, a box of stuffing, a one-pound bag of potatoes and a bag to hold it all.

Oh, and a 10- to 14-pound turkey.

“Each year we make a plea in our community to help us put this together for our holiday outreach boxes for families in the area that are in most need for the holiday season,” Sr. Piper Klatt, SOJMP, told Detroit Catholic.

Sr. Piper Klatt of the Sisters of Jesus' Merciful Passion holds up a turkey that was donated Nov. 21 to feed a local family in need. The Sisters organize food drives every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)
Sr. Piper Klatt of the Sisters of Jesus' Merciful Passion holds up a turkey that was donated Nov. 21 to feed a local family in need. The Sisters organize food drives every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. (Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

The Sisters of Jesus’ Merciful Passion work with social workers at area schools to identify families in need who could use a holiday basket, Sr. Klatt said. Baskets for Thanksgiving were assembled on Nov. 17, with the turkeys coming Nov. 20, and distribution taking place Nov. 21.

“We work with social workers in the area,” Sr. Klatt said. “We share this (property) with Rainbow Elementary at the end of the property, but we also work with Clintondale and Maple Lane Elementary, and that’s where we get most of our clientele.”

When families come to the Shrine of Jesus the Divine Mercy to pick up their meal box, it's often the first time they visit the shrine's campus, which is tucked behind a Clinton Township neighborhood. But while they come for food, they receive much more.

“We look forward to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every year. We can reach out and be the hands and feet of Christ who works through us to give some joy to families in need,” Sr. Klatt said. “We invite them to come and pray if they want a prayer. Some families come in and received a prayer or a warm bowl of soup or cup of coffee. It’s a great way to introduce them to the shrine.”

The Sisters of Jesus' Merciful Passion are set to give away 100 food baskets and 150 turkeys this Thanksgiving season and are now accepting donations for its Christmas food drive. (Photo provided by Shrine of Jesus The Divine Mercy)
The Sisters of Jesus' Merciful Passion are set to give away 100 food baskets and 150 turkeys this Thanksgiving season and are now accepting donations for its Christmas food drive. (Photo provided by Shrine of Jesus The Divine Mercy)

Generosity leads to an extra day off at Regina

Students at Regina High School in Warren earned an extended Thanksgiving break for meeting their goal of filling the entire stage in the school cafeteria with nonperishable goods.

The Saddlelites donated food and baby items to St. Isidore’s Baby Pantry in Macomb, St. Margaret of Scotland Parish’s food pantry in St. Clair Shores, St. Blase Parish in Sterling Heights, Our Lady of the Rosary Student Parish in Detroit, St. Patrick Senior Center and the Detroit-based Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph.

Regina High School students packed the entire stage in the cafeteria with nonperishable good, fulfilling its goal for its food drive and earning an extra day off for their Thanksgiving break. The donated items are going to six food pantries in the Detroit area. (Photo courtesy of Regina High School)
Regina High School students packed the entire stage in the cafeteria with nonperishable good, fulfilling its goal for its food drive and earning an extra day off for their Thanksgiving break. The donated items are going to six food pantries in the Detroit area. (Photo courtesy of Regina High School)

The school celebrated the donations with a Thanksgiving Mass and prayer service Nov. 21, where representatives from the parishes and community were present to receive the donations.

Regina kicked off the food drive with an All Saints Day Mass with Bro. Brenton Ertel, OFM Cap., and Bishop John M. Quinn, retired bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minn., and a former Detroit auxiliary bishop.

Eighth-graders at St. Joseph School in Trenton organize more than 150 food baskets that were distributed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Joseph Parish. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph School)
Eighth-graders at St. Joseph School in Trenton organize more than 150 food baskets that were distributed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Joseph Parish. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph School)

St. Joseph School organizes 150 food baskets

Students at St. Joseph School in Trenton collected canned fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta, soup, stuffing, potatoes, peanut butter and cake mix from Nov. 6-10 to supplement more than 150 baskets for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Joseph Parish.

Eighth-graders were responsible for collecting the donations from the various classrooms and organizing the baskets. Prior to the food drive, the eighth-graders had the opportunity to do some in-person service learning by volunteering at the All Saints Soup Kitchen in Detroit.



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