Students serve Jesus by serving the community

Jacob Stewart (left) and Ethan Wallace clear weeds from flower beds at a veterans’ home during Peninsula Catholic High School’s Service Day on Friday, March 31. (Photos/Jennifer Neville)

Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

The message was driven home to students at Peninsula Catholic High School (PCHS), Newport News, as they volunteered at their school and 15 sites in the community during the school’s annual Service Day, March 31.

“That’s one of the things I love about PC, that they encourage you to do service and then they have Service Day where you get to go out and get to help the community, and I think that’s just awe- some,” said senior Alex Hansin, who helped LINK of Hampton Roads, which provides emergency resources for the homeless and at risk.

“It definitely makes me appreciate the things I have more, and it makes me want to help others a lot more,” Hansin added.

PCHS senior Nhi Nhi Do sorts clothing at LINK’s Newport News office during the school’s Service Day on March 31.

While the eighth-graders served at their school, freshmen through seniors volunteered in Newport News and nearby cities.

“I think it’s important for the kids to get out of themselves. I think as human beings, to think out- side of ourselves and to think of other people, to be kind to one another, is so important, and to understand that there are people out there in worse situations makes them (the students) grateful for what they have, the blessings that they enjoy, but it also gives them an understanding of the need to help others,” explained campus minister Mari Tere Adinaro (known as MT).

“It’s Matthew 25: It’s ‘whatever you do for the least of my people, you have done for me,’” she explained.

English teacher Angelia Muha said she hopes Service Day shows the students “that they truly are the body of Christ,” exposes the need for service in the community, reveals “the feeling inside when we’re helping somebody else” and “ignites that fire of wanting to do service.”

Students seemed to have received the message.

“I would definitely say it’s made me more open to doing things when you’re not required to. It kind of gives you that motivation to do it when you’re older and to keep trying to help people even when it’s not convenient to you,” said senior Guru-Taara Khalsa, who volunteered at LINK.

Likewise, senior Jenna Ajello, who also volunteered at LINK, said, “I learned how much the community just really needs help, and I learned about the impact that volunteering can have on the community. It can make me more compassionate and understanding and appreciative.”

Each of the approximately 260 pupils at PCHS is required to do 10 hours of community service each year, but Service Day gives them the opportunity to serve together.

“There was a lot of teamwork built into it in order to get everything done,” said sophomore Samantha Daugherty who helped organize do- nations at Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia’s Newport News office.

Service Day introduces most students to places they have not previously served, perhaps to places they did not even know existed, MT said.

Some of the tasks the eighth-graders did were collecting trash on the grounds, cleaning the school’s whiteboards and trays, and rolling bags for THRIVE Peninsula, a Newport News non-profit organization which describes itself as assisting “those most in need.”

The students also packed and delivered baby items the student body had collected during Len

t which coincided with the Forty Days for Life spring campaign. The donations, which included clothing, formula, diapers and other baby items, were given to the pregnancy outreach ministry at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish (OLMC), New- port News.

Freshmen did yardwork at two local veterans’ homes, the nearby Asbury Wesleyan Church and OLMC.

In addition to volunteering at Catholic Charities, sophomores did grounds cleanup at the Mariners’ Museum and Park, Newport News, and Edmarc, Portsmouth, which provides home health and hospice for children with life-threatening illnesses.

Juniors did clerical work for Avalon Center, Williamsburg, which addresses domestic violence; did yardwork at St. Clare of Assisi Retreat Center, Hampton, and the emergency homeless shelter Menchville House, Newport News; and organized donations and helped clean Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter, Newport News.

Seniors organized donations and packed personal hygiene and food bags at LINK’s Newport News office, and also did yardwork at St. Jerome Catholic Church, Newport News, the senior living community The Chesapeake, Newport News, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church, Tabb.

Jack Rusak (left) and Connor Woodruff do yardwork at a veterans’ home in Newport News during Peninsula Catholic High School’s Service Day on Friday, March 31.

David Williams, a PCHS teacher supervising students at one of the veterans’ home sites, said during Service Day that the students were learning “it’s not just about what they can do for them- selves; it’s about what they can do for their neighbor, for their community.”

“Allowing us to do good is the point of being a well-integrated person in society,” he said.

Many students found the experience reward- ing and were grateful for the opportunity.

“Doing good for others makes them happy and makes God happy,” said senior Megan Massingill, who volunteered at LINK. “You’re not just serving others. You’re serving Jesus and that’s what he wanted us to do.”

“I feel like we’re blessed enough to be able go out and help others who haven’t been as blessed as we are and bring a smile to someone else’s face. I feel good to know that you’re doing that,” added Erica Gillian, also serving LINK.

“I think Service Day is important because as Catholics we are supposed to serve the community,” said junior Audrey Weinhoff who volunteered at the retreat center. “It kind of inspired me to help people more. I feel like those people we serve grow closer to Christ knowing that children of God are there to help them.”

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