May 15, 2003
Living the Gospel
By Kristen Fox/ SUN contributing writers
Students at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School raise money for Utica’s Hospitality Row
When Ed Walsh, the director of outreach ministry at St. Francis de Sales Church in Utica, took three students from Notre Dame High School on a tour of the outreach ministries that line Utica’s Hospitality Row, he hoped that they would walk away with greater understanding of what it takes to help those in need. He never imagined that one month later several students would return with over $1,000 in cash and supplies for the agencies along Eagle Street that assist the terminally ill, the homeless, those without medical coverage, foreign refugees and a number of other community members.
Students from the high school’s campus ministry group spearheaded a project to raise money for Hospitality Row. They worked tirelessly, organizing bake sales, a dance and passing around donation cans in classrooms for spare change. In just one month, they collected $1,100 in cash as well as $734 in personal items, such as shampoo and soap. Nicole Sheehan, a junior at Notre Dame and a member of campus ministry, said that the project addressed a tremendous need in the community. “We couldn’t believe that so many people in the community go without basic necessities. The places that support them really needed our help,” said Nicole.
A large part of raising the money and supplies was educating their peers to just how much Hospitality Row needed their help, Sheehan said. Members of the campus ministry went into the religion classes in grades nine through 12 and explained to the students that even a small donation could help give a hot meal to a homeless person or allow a mother to buy medicine for her newborn. They found that their peers were more than willing to get involved, selflessly sacrificing snacks and after-school meals to donate money to a bigger cause. Sheehan explained that while the group began with a goal of $500, they found the project snowballed into something much bigger than anyone expected. “Our original goal was to raise $500. But before we knew it we had $800 and there were still three days left. When we ended up with over a thousand dollars we were very surprised and excited,” said Nicole. “But the classes wanted to help make this happen for such a good cause.”
Carol Troy, director of campus ministry at Notre Dame, said that she is proud of how the students pulled together to help their neighbors. She said that this act of kindness shows that the “younger generation” is willing to get involved. “Sometimes we only hear the negative things about young people. But there are so many extraordinary things like this happening that we might not know about,” she said. “Young people do care.” Walsh said that the money and the personal items the students collected will go further than they realize. “The amount of food we can get and emergency services that we can provide with $1100 is substantial,” he noted. Walsh added that the supplies such as shampoo and soap that the students collected is also greatly appreciated and much needed since food stamps cannot be used to purchase anything that is taxable, such as toiletry products and personal hygiene items. Walsh has been inviting students from area colleges and high schools to tour Hospitality Row. His goal is to connect service organizations and programs in the community, such as campus ministry at Notre Dame, with Hospitality Row by showing them what it means to work with the poor. He believes a firsthand account of the ministries will give them a good idea of the problems the community is facing and what they can do to carry on Jesus’ Gospel message to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless.
“Truly living out our Christian faith takes more than going to Mass every Sunday,” said Walsh. “It takes a vision and a dedication to continuing the mission of Christ.” Janessa Girolamo, a sophomore and member of campus ministry, said that she learned a lot through her experience with Hospitality Row. “It is an honor to be able to put together something like this for the community,” said Janessa. “It feels good to help people.” For their effort on behalf of Hospitality Row, eight students from the high school were presented with a plaque during a Mass at St. Francis de Sales on May 6. During the homily, Father Fred Daley, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Utica, told the students that work like this is vital to keep the services alive for the needy. “The services on Hospitality Row allow us to reach out to others through offering them physical, spiritual and emotional help. But to do this takes the help of many people –– people like you,” said Father Daley to the students. Father Daley continued by explaining that the students are a light shining in what, at times can be for some people, a very dark world.
“Sometimes we might wonder –– with all of the problems in the world –– if we can really make a difference,” Father Daley told students. “Yes we can –– and all of you, through your administering of the Gospel values, are an example of that.”