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Students from Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish worked to fill blessing bags Jan. 15 at the church. The bags included necessities such as handwarmers and snacks, along with personal touches including notes.
Students from Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish worked to fill blessing bags Jan. 15 at the church. The bags included necessities such as handwarmers and snacks, along with personal touches including notes.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review

Bringing a spritz of God’s love to those in need

Sts. Joachim and Ann students, parishioners continue friend’s memory through small acts of kindness

Although school was closed for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15, the Sts. Joachim and Ann cafeteria bustled with activity.

Several dozen students and parishioners showed up at 10 a.m. to put together blessing bags to be distributed by The Care Service’s street outreach team. The warmth of the cafeteria insulated them from the single-digits temperatures outside as the students snaked along the tables, filling bags with hand warmers, thick socks, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, toothbrushes, mints and hand sanitizer.

“I was thinking about the people who are out there in the cold, thinking about how much this could help them,” Sts. Joachim and Ann eighth-grader Brady Feldmann said.

At another table, several girls hand-wrote cards with The Care Service’s contact information to be added to the bags alongside prayer cards. Both the practical items and the personal touches are important for the people who will receive the blessing bags, said Donna Tobin, The Care Service’s director of development and a parishioner at Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles.

“Through our street outreach program, we’re providing life-sustaining supplies to people when we’re out working with them,” Tobin said. “…When it comes in a nice bag like this, when they’ve got notes in it, they know that there’s somebody out in the community that cares for them. It’s a bit more of a personal connection.”

The Care Service, previously known as Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, grew out of the parish many years ago and continues a close relationship with both the parish and the school. Students frequently host collections or volunteer at The Care Service.

Students from Sts. Joachim and Ann school and parish filled blessing bags along with the Spritzers service group from the church Jan. 15 in St. Charles. The Spritzers perform small acts of service for parishioners and others in the community.
Photo Credits: Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review
“That relationship is incredibly beneficial, not only to The Care Service, but to the parishioners and especially the school. It helps us educate more people on challenges that are facing others in a community,” Tobin said. “It’s not just giving to us, they’re also having the opportunity to understand where it’s going and who it’s benefiting and the importance that has in our community.”

In the sea of red shirts, a few bore the message: J&A Spritzers. Small things with great love.

Spritzes of love

The Spritzers started with brownies, potato chips and 7-Up.

Well, before that, it started with Cindi Johnson.

“When we started, we were a group of four friends still mourning the loss of a very dear friend of ours,” said Katie Corrigan, one of the founders of the J&A Spritzers.

“(Johnson) was the kind of person who just always knew, ‘Hey, that person could use some cheering up, let’s stop by and see how they’re doing,’” Corrigan continued.

She “just made you feel special. You felt love from her. You felt kindness,” said Kathy Wilkinson, another Spritzers founder.

Johnson, a parishioner and school parent, died in 2020, and in the months following, her friends looked for a way to honor her memory and continue the care she had for everyone around her. The world was still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and students and families were home sick more frequently than before.

So, they started delivering simple care packages: brownies, potato chips and 7-Up. “For some reason, we decided that would be something to cheer you up,” Corrigan said with a laugh. “But also just to know that somebody is thinking about you and cares about you.”

Gianna Crites, right, a student from Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish, worked with members of the Spritzers filling blessing bags Jan. 15. The Spritzers are members of a grassroots group that was organized by four women from the parish after the 2020 death of Cindi Johnson, a well-known member of the church.
Photo Credits: Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review
The more they talked about it, the more they started to see other school and parish families in need, too. “So we put out the ask to other ladies in the parish: Does anybody else want to do some service work to respond to needs that we know about, just within our walls, of people that are hurting?” Corrigan said.

The group has grown to more than 100 women, and they’ve involved their families; the children of all ages are affectionately known as the Junior Spritzers and are called upon to help as often as possible.

The acts of service have been wide and varied according to needs: setting up a meal train for a parishioner who lost a family member, putting lunch money in a student’s account after a parent lost a job, taking care of the flowers on the parish grounds, arranging for someone to cut a parishioner’s grass after an injury or hang their Christmas lights. On Christmas Eve, the Spritzers delivered more than 100 small gifts to widows and widowers in the parish.

The group’s name honors Johnson, who earned the nickname Spritz by volunteering to water all the plants at the parish. It’s also a verb: The members “spritz” those in need with love and kindness. “Any way we can bring joy is our overall mission,” Corrigan said.

Keeping their eyes and ears attuned to notice people’s needs has “made us be way more intentional,” Corrigan said. “When somebody says, ‘hey, keep this person in your prayers,’ we actually are stopping and praying. And then it’s, OK, what else can we do to help them?”

Wilkinson, one of the founders, participates in Spritzers projects with her children, Sts. Joachim and Ann students in grades eight, seven, five and one. “It instills that we do things for other people,” she said. “And we’re not just collecting canned goods — they’re hands-on doing things.”

For Becki Feldmann’s children, “Service is not something they feel like they have to do — it’s something they want to do,” Feldmann said. “Cindi (Johnson) lived a life of service, and we want our kids to be around and know that this isn’t just a project — it’s a way of life.”

The Spritzers carry on Johnson’s legacy by “anticipating the lift that someone needs, that they’re not going to ask for themselves,” said Feldmann, another Spritzer founder. “It’s helped me to see that we are all better together…We use our God-given gifts, whether that’s organization, or attention to detail, or communications, we all come together with those gifts that God has given us to be able to give them back.”

As she looked around at the children and parents gathered to make blessing bags, Betsy Schnettgoecke, the fourth Spritzers founder, was struck by how the Spritzers have helped build up the Sts. Joachim and Ann community. “Look at all these kids that came out, high schoolers that came back, moms. They get together and it makes our community stronger,” she said.

Finding a small way to care for people who are unhoused in the cold is a natural outgrowth of the Spritzers’ acts of kindness for people inside the parish community, Schnettgoecke said. They see a need, and they act to meet it.

“This is what Jesus always talked about — being the eyes and ears and hands and feet of Christ,” she said.

Her sixth-grade daughter, Kayleigh, agreed. “It’s fun to see how when we come together, we can get a lot done,” she said.

Seventh-grader Shannon Wilkinson pointed out that every Spritzer project begins with a prayer for those they are serving. That prayer “opens our minds to realize what we’re really doing and why we’re doing it,” she said.

Follow the Sts. Joachim and Ann Spritzers on Facebook: facebook.com/JASpritzers

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