March 11-17, 2004
By Kristen Fox / SUN Staff Writer
Students work to fill a ‘house’ with donations for a worthy cause
VESTAL –– The religious education students at St. Vincent de Paul Parish do much more than learn about the teachings of the Bible. They put them into practice. Every Lenten season, the students in grades kindergarten through 12 perform corporal works of mercy –– charitable actions that aid fellow neighbors in need.
This year the religious education students are responding to the needs of the SOS Shelter –– a shelter for victims of domestic violence and abuse. Through creativity and inventiveness, the students have gained the attention of the parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul by erecting a lean-to made of sticks in the church vestibule. A list of items the shelter requires is posted on the structure and children and adults alike are asked to donate items to fill it. Sixteen members of Boy Scout Troop #244 spent more than five hours erecting the structure, which consists of sticks, tied together with clove hitch knots. Clove hitch knots are adjustable, temporary knots that are quick to tie. They are the mostly widely used knots by the Boy Scouts. Colette Floyd, the director of religious education at St. Vincent de Paul, said that she called upon the Boy Scout troop to erect the structure because many of the boys in the troop are also members of the religious education program.
Floyd explained that each year the students and teachers of the religious education program strive to come up with creative, eye-catching ways to capture people’s attention for the cause. “Last year we collected items for Samaritan House and the students built a replica of the Samaritan House out of washing machine boxes to place the items in,” said Floyd. “Another year, we collected donations for Birth Right and we placed port-a-cribs in the vestibule. We receive an enormous amount of donations.”
Floyd said that teaching and practicing the corporal works of mercy are important educational methods to share with the religious education students. “Every year, we study the same biblical message –– Matthew 25: 35-46, and use the lessons to answer the calls for help in our community,” said Floyd. “We try to gear our request for donations to those of all economic backgrounds. By asking for new and used items, it’s not too much of a hardship on families who cannot give a lot at the time.” Floyd also said that by selecting a different agency in need each year, the St. Vincent de Paul Parish becomes aware of the varying needs in the community as well as the different types of social problems that are out there. The SOS shelter is thrilled to be the recipient of this year’s generous donations by St. Vincent de Paul. The shelter provides a safe and secure residence for up to 20 women and children in crisis and offers counseling, relocation, legal information, court accompaniment and more. Pearl Reed-Klein, a staff member at SOS, said that in addition to providing food and clothing for the residence, they also purchase bus tickets for victims who need to leave the area. Therefore, they are continually seeking monetary donations as well as non-perishable food items, cleaning supplies, new and used clothing and school supplies. “The children are also given a new stuffed animal when they arrive that they take with them upon departure,” said Klein.
Twelve-year-old Nicholas Sassani, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, was delighted to be part of the Lenten service project. “This is my first year as a Boy Scout,” said Nicholas. “It was my first time ever learning how to tie a clove hitch knot.” While Nicholas enjoyed constructing the lean-to, he was also happy to be able to help those in need. “The shelter was a good idea. Before, they used other containers to put the donations in,” said Nicholas. “Now people notice this. It reminds them to bring in their donations. It’s a large structure that’s out in the open.” Nicholas’ brother, 14-year-old Michael Sassani agrees. He said that it was their duty as Boy Scouts to do this project. “Boy Scouts is about helping and being prepared,” said Michael. “We did this for our church because we are members here. We like to help people,” he said. Michael thought the project was awesome. “We learned a lot. The younger scouts and those who are new to the troop learned how to tie knots.”
Unlike his brother, Michael said that the troop didn’t build the structure to get people’s attention; they did it as a service to the church. “Our scout leader, Mr. Prutisto, was the one who got us into this,” said Michael. “He’s our fearless leader. He gets us going. Sometimes we can become lazy.” Michael explained that while the troop works as a team, Prutisto gets the credit for getting them started. “He’s a really great guy. He’s very proud of us,” said Michael. When asked about other service projects that the troop has planned, Michael said that this project was only one of their good deeds for Lent. “As a troop, we like to help out the church and anyone else we can,” said Michael. “Lent is not about giving things up. It’s about helping.”