The Office of Catholic Education hosts weekly meetings with principals of Catholic schools throughout the eight-county Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
“We spent the first couple of weeks after the stay-at-home order began making sure all of our students had access to devices and materials necessary for remote learning and transitioned to collaborating with teachers where we discussed strategies and tools that make virtual learning productive and engaging,” said Monica Dietz, assistant superintendent for elementary schools.
“During our weekly meetings, it became evident that our families in urban, high poverty areas were experiencing daily struggles as a result of this pandemic. There were long lines to some food banks and some families were unable to travel to food banks because of their lack of transportation. This gave us the idea to connect parishes and schools,” Dietz said.
As a result, they identified 19 schools with a parish/school that could host a food/essential items drive. After the collection, the schools with families in need arranged a scheduled drive-through for families to pick up the essential items. When necessary, Dietz said faculty from the schools delivered items to families in need.
Borden Milk donated pallets of milk to schools that were able to distribute it to their families. St. Adalbert School and St. Leo the Great, both in Cleveland, are two schools distributing milk. Dietz also connected the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Society with Borden to see if their clients could be assisted.
Here is a look at how what some of the schools did to help other Catholic schools with needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Holy Trinity School, Avon
Food was collected on April 27 during the end-of-year parade. Families were given times to join the parade. Teachers stood on school grounds with signs, students brought signs and food was collected for 42 families at St. Mary School in Elyria.
St. Mary staff delivered the food to families' homes.
“First of all, we were so impressed by the response of the families of Holy Trinity School,” said Sharon Urig, St. Mary principal. “Because of their generosity, 45 families each received multiple bags of food, paper products and personal care items. Our families were touched that another school would reach out to help them during this difficult time. The children were happy to see St. Mary School staff members. The families appreciated the food and thanked us many times over, but more importantly I felt they were grateful someone was thinking of them,” Urig added.
Incarnate Word Academy, Parma Heights
IWA had a “Parade of Cars” through the school parking lot on May 2.
Principal Jan Cicerchi emailed families asking them to bring non-perishable food items that teachers took from cars as they paraded through the parking lot. The items were shared with St. Rocco School in Cleveland.
IWA also had two additional drop-off days and times on May 4-5.
Renee Cerney, St. Rocco principal, and Cicerchi reviewed and added some items to the food list. Cerney recommended food for approximately 100 families.
Since St. Rocco's had a work drop-off scheduled for May 11, IWA delivered the food before then so it could be shared with St. Rocco families when they came to the school. Any leftover food items were stored until the next work drop-off date on May 18. Cerney said anything left after that would be donated to the St. Rocco food pantry.
St. Barnabas School, Northfield
“It was so uplifting seeing the St. Barnabas School community join together in celebration of our school and Mary Queen of Peace School (in Cleveland),” said Erin Faetinin, St. Barnabas principal. “Not only did our faculty and staff greet well over 300 cars loaded with Blazer students and families, but we also collected enough food and supplies to fill 283 care packages for our friends at Mary Queen of Peace.”
See television coverage of the St. Barnabas parade here.
Academy of St. Bartholomew, Middleburg Heights
The Academy of St. Bartholomew collected food, cash and gift cards for its partner school, St. Adalbert in Cleveland.
Jamie Smith, St. Adalbert principal, said they pulled their resources together and distributed grocery gift cards to families while the students were having locker clean-out days. Smith said gift cards were provided because it had been difficult to purchase food in bulk during the health crisis. “We do have a number of food items donated,” Smith said, adding that St. Bartholomew made two collections and drop-offs at St. Adalbert. “We will bag these groceries and use these for families we know have limited resources and need the most help,” she said.
“I appreciate all of the help with making connections between schools for this purpose. Our families are struggling and we are happy to be able to support them is various ways throughout this whole ordeal,” Smith added.
She said St. Adalbert is also serving as a distribution site for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, which will distribute food and produce in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood twice a month from the campus. “We are excited about this opportunity, too,” Smith said.
“We are not just dedicated to our students, but rather to this community as a whole and right now they need us. Thank you for your help in making it possible for us to do this,” Smith added.
St. Bernadette School, Westlake
Parish and school families were invited to drop off food donations in the Dempsey Hall foyer. Families in need of supplies could assemble a box for their own use. Most of the donated items were dropped earlier this month at Metro Catholic and St. Stanislaus schools, both in Cleveland.
St. Christopher School, Rocky River
The St. Christopher community collected items and delivered 90 bags of food to St. Peter School in Lorain. St. Peter’s them arranged for its families to pick up the items during the week of May 11.
St. Francis of Assisi School, Gates Mills
The school had a food collection during its plant sale pick-up on May 14. Donations were delivered to St. Ignatius School in Cleveland.
Marge Ricksecker, St. Ignatius principal, said they had a drop off/pick up day on May 19 so families could get donated items.
St. Gabriel School, Concord Township
St. Gabriel School collected food items during an all-school drive-through parade on May 11. St. Gabriel's PTU members organized food and items during and after the parade and the items were delivered by St. Gabriel maintenance team members to St. Benedict School in Garfield Heights the following day. Their goal was to assist 150 St. Benedict families.
Then St. Benedict School distributed the donations to its school families.
St. Joseph School, Avon Lake
St. Joseph Parish expressed thanks to thank all those who donated food items to those in need. They worked with the Knights of Columbus Father Ragan Council 3269 to serve the Catholic parishes in Northeast Lorain County. They also assisted St. Peter School in Lorain and Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Cleveland.
St. Joseph School, Cuyahoga Falls
“We had our food drive in conjunction with our Falcon Pride drive-by parade as we honored the feast of St. Joseph the Worker,” said Carrie DePasquale, St. Joseph principal. “It was a great opportunity to tie in for us,” she added.
Their donations assisted St. Mary Byzantine School in Cleveland.
St. Hilary School, Fairlawn
Father Matt Jordan, parochial vicar at St. Hilary Parish, organized a May 1 food drive to assist two parish schools: St. Anthony of Padua School in Akron and St. Augustine in Cleveland. With the help of volunteers, the food was delivered to St. Anthony on May 8 and St. Augustine on May 11.
Click here for a short video showing the food drive results. Erin McMahon, sixth grade teacher, and Kristen Bennett, kindergarten teacher, can be seen in the video assisting on drop-off day.
“Since the beginning of distance learning, our great school leadership made up of our principal, Jennifer Woodman, our assistant principal Mrs. Alexander, and our director of admissions Mrs. Sinopoli, were concerned that some of our families would need a little bit more help in this difficult time,” said Father Jordan. “So on our staff day to talk about distance learning, everyone brought in various snack foods and canned goods for our families and we established the Saber Pantry. Because everything from the school, the playground, the church, the parish offices and the rectory are part of my ‘home,’ I then opened the pantry for three separate hours and yet I only took in a few donations,” he added.
“We were able to help a couple of our families, but we had a lot of extras. Another area Catholic school heard that we were doing that and reached out asking for help. So we gave them most of our pantry and then we finally opened it up for our parents to donate after we were partnered with St. Augustine and St. Anthony of Padua schools. Leave to our wonderful families to be so generous,” Father Jordan said. “It is so meaningful to be able to help others in this time and I think it has greatly enriched our community. I think it helps us to remember who we are as a Catholic school and whose we are -- namely, God's children. It has been great to work with volunteers to help to receive so much for our food pantry drop off and those who have helped me to take the food to the other schools.”
St. Raphael School, Bay Village
The school community conducted a collection on May 8 with its Teacher Appreciation Parade. Donations were given to St. Leo and St. Stanislaus schools in Cleveland.
St. Mark School, Cleveland
St. Mark’s conducted a collection day on May 17 and delivered the items to St. Thomas Aquinas School in Cleveland on May 18.
Also participating in the food collection project were St. John Vianney School, Mentor, which assisted St. Aloysius-St. Agatha School in Cleveland; St. Mary of the Falls School, Olmsted Falls, assisting St. Francis School, Cleveland; St. Angela Merici School, Fairview Park, assisting St. Jerome School, Cleveland; Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Cuyahoga Falls, assisting St. Mary School, Akron; and St. Brendan School, North Olmsted, whose donations were used to fill in gaps at schools that needed additional food.