How would you spend $1,000?

| December 14, 2011 | 1 Comment

St. Agnes students learn more about charitable giving thanks to one couple’s generosity

Fifty-three seniors at St. Agnes High School in St. Paul are learning the joy of giving through Project Joy this year, thanks to the financial generosity of a couple who want to remain anonymous.

“The gentleman of the couple said that early in his life he was fortunate enough to be able to go around and give donations to different folks that were in need and it really touched his heart,” explained Jim Morehead, St. Agnes School principal.

“He want­ed to find a way to try to instill that feeling into others.”

The couple provided $53,000 so that each senior could give $1,000 to the charity of his or her choice.

“The hope would be that, obviously in the future, they would continue to give and pass it along,” Morehead said.

Educational experience

With guidance from Morehead as well as physics/chemistry teacher Karl Hendrickson and St. Agnes pastor Father John Ubel, the students chose an organization and researched it to be certain that it was in line with the mission of St. Agnes School and the principles of the Catholic Church.

Father Ubel said the research was necessary because some charities may have a “good end result,” but they may violate Catholic teaching in the process of obtaining the result: such as using embryonic stem cells for research to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.

“There’s an education process in this,” Father Ubel said. “It requires you to look at it critically.”

At the beginning of the process in late October and early November, Father Ubel told the students, “You are intimately linked to why this charity is receiving this assistance.”

Now that Project Joy is near completion before Christmas, students will be calling the recipients of the $1,000 donations to set up a time to deliver the checks in person, if possible. Each student will also write a reflection about the feelings he or she experienced in giving the money. Those reflections will be sent on to the donor couple, as they requested.

Hendrickson said that before working on this project with the students, he never realized how many international organizations were based in Minnesota, such as Friends of the Orphans, Healing Haiti and ProLife Across America.

“Pro-life organizations were at the top of the list” of charities that the students wanted to support, Hendrickson said. Other students chose educational organizations, including St. Agnes grade school. But the three school leaders steered the money elsewhere to avoid a conflict of interest.

Morehead said he encouraged students to choose a charity that had a connection to their life or the life of a sibling or because they had witnessed the good work that it does.

“They all have some story,” he said.

A personal choice

Four of the 53 students sat down with The Catholic Spirit to talk about their selections.

Josh Gutzmann said he chose Healing Haiti because his aunt and uncle got to know the founder of the charity through their experience of adopting four children from Haiti.

“That was the first thing that came into my mind when I thought of charities, because of the good work they do in Haiti,” he said. “I knew what their mission was, but I looked it up just in case.”

The Christian-based charity provides food, water, housing and help with adoptions.

“They do a lot of work with Feed My Starving Children,” said Gutzmann, a member of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony.

Michael Harrington, also a member of St. Charles Borromeo, picked ProLife Across America because of how much the pro-life issue means to him personally.

“I like to do a lot of pro-life work, whether it’s bake sales for pro-life, [being active] in our pro-life club at St. Agnes and praying in front of an abortion clinic,” he said. “Mary Ann Kuharski, the founder of ProLife Across America, actually goes to my church.”

Harrington said he knew of the organization and the work it does with women who are considering an abortion or may have had an abortion, and especially its mission of putting up billboards across the country. In fact, he knows some of the babies that have been featured on the billboards, which he learned are in about 30 states.

“[Kuharski] said to my dad that they had been trying to raise money at different churches and weren’t having that much success, so I knew $1,000 could go a long way to help ProLife Across America,” he said.

Lessons learned

Camp Friendship was at the top of Molly Connolly’s list. A member of Holy Childhood in St. Paul, she spent the past three summers at the camp, two as a volunteer and one as an employee.

Connolly was first inspired to volunteer at the camp because her brother, Sean, has Down syndrome and she was interested in special education at the time.

“Their mission is to provide a time for someone where they don’t have to feel different,” she said. “Camp Friendship was one of the best experiences of my life. It was so much fun and rewarding.”

Another student, Nikki Kimlinger, said she “wanted to give to the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital because my youngest brother, Matt, was born six weeks premature.”

The first prognosis was for him to be in the unit for a month, but he came home after just a week, she said. Today, he is a typical busy kindergarten student at St. Agnes Grade School.

“The nurses have so much love and care for these babies,” said Kimlinger, a member of St. Agnes parish. “I’m hoping the money provides more technology to help these babies get better faster and be able to come home sooner.”

The four students said they have learned the lesson about giving that the anonymous donors were hoping for in their lives. And they expressed appreciation for the opportunity to be part of Project Joy.

Gutzmann said, “I’m happy they did this, to teach us all how giving is such a good thing, especially around Christmas.”

Kimlinger added, “I found it interesting that they had $53,000 to give away and they didn’t just give it away on their own. . . . They allowed high school seniors to choose charities that meant something to them.”

Chosen charities

Following is a list of the charities chosen by St. Agnes High School seniors to receive $1,000. (Note: Some students gave to the same charity.)

Sharing & Caring Hands
St. Michael Broadcasting
Vision for the Hopeless Int’l
Camp Friendship
Wildlife Forever
Network for the Development of Children of African Descent
Catholic Charities
Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church
Francis Basket Food Shelf
Dove Missions
North Side LifeCare Center
Lev La Lev
Blue Star Mothers of America
Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance
Healing Haiti
Minnesota Autism
Pro-Life Across America
Saint Agnes Scholarship Fund
Help the Helpless
Sisters of St. Peter Claver
Catholic Charities; Hope Street Shelter
Common Bond Communities
New Life Family Services
Children’s Hospital NICU
Miracles of Mitch
Laboure Society
Catholic Charities: Dorothy Day Center
Wakota LifeCare Center
Project Ultrasound
Missionary Sisters of Charity
West Minnehaha recreation center
St. Anne’s Place
Minnetonka LifeCare Center
Frogtown Association
Lakes LifeCare Center
Cradle of Hope
Friends of the Orphans
To Write Love on Her Arms
Frogtown Development Corporation
Doctors Without Borders
Lakeview Hospice
Klas Family Foundation
Defending the Blue Line Foundation
PIME Missionaries (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions)
Miami Children’s Hospital
Holy Family Surgery Center
Saint Jude

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