An unexpected March snow storm was not going to stop the OLSH Interact Club from participating in their rescheduled “MLK Day of Service” project. Their planned day at Mooncrest Neighborhood Programs (MNP) was canceled back in January due to our region’s largest snowfall of the season. Originally giving up their day off of school on January 17th, this time the students spent the school day on Wednesday at MNP as a field trip.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service where individuals are encouraged to volunteer to improve their community. The families and individuals living in the Mooncrest community, located just four miles from OLSH, are persons experiencing the effects of poverty. MNP promotes “spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and emotional development for children and families living in the Mooncrest neighborhood.” The work is aligned with the Felician Sisters’ Core Value of Solidarity with People in Need.
The all-day visit to Mooncrest began with a delivery of items like cereal and nutrition drinks from the school’s food pantry. Our Lady’s Pantry is one of many area food services that stock MNP with food and supplies for the community. The next few hours were spent doing spring cleaning throughout the center. Surfaces, furniture, walls, and windows all received a thorough scrubbing from the Interactors.
After learning about the many free resources and services available at the center, students participated in two weekly adult programs with the Mooncrest residents - the Faith Sharing group and Pokeno! While fewer residents than normal participated due to the snow accumulation, energy filled the room thanks to the students’ involvement. The Pokeno players range from 20-something year olds, to young families with babies in tow, to long-time octogenarian residents. The prizes for Pokeno are items typically not provided by government or pantry services - such as toothbrushes, feminine products, blankets, and toilet paper. The program directors added some candy choices to the selection so that the students could be winners too!
Lunchtime was the group’s chance to learn more about the history of Mooncrest as government housing for WWII workers and the recent shift in the community’s demographics to predominantly Spanish-speaking immigrants from Central America. Twice during the visit, OLSH Spanish teacher and Interact volunteer Mady Simmers was called upon to help interpret a resident’s request for medical assistance, another service offered at MNP. The center’s staff speak minimal Spanish and the students were intrigued to watch their teacher put her skills to important work.
The afternoon was spent finishing up some much-needed tasks, such as relocating some shelving, organizing books, and shoveling the sidewalks. The drive through the community on the way back to campus was somewhat somber, as students saw the many small units which sometimes house more than one family due to the increasing cost of rent. “The students left feeling more grateful for the many blessings in their own lives, and with the desire to return to do more good. They reflected on how they are aware that the needs throughout the world are vast, as they shared their surprise at the level of need so close to home,” said Interact Moderator Cheryl Karashin.
The group hopes to schedule a regular opportunity to do service at the MNP After School Program, which takes place daily and serves upwards of 70 community students in grades K-8. Miss Simmers would like to engage some of her Spanish students to help with communication and ESL tutoring, and Mrs. Karashin is hoping to get other faculty members involved as well.