At one end of a row of dog kennels, Evan Adrian read the book “Mixed-Up Pups” to a four-legged friend, Winston. At the other end, Lucia Keaney read “Biscuit Visits the Big City” to Saint, while holding up the book so the dog could see the pictures.
They were among 14 first-graders from Ste. Genevieve du Bois School in Warson Woods who visited the St. Louis County Pet Adoption Center on a service day in which students volunteered at eight agencies. Kindergarten and preschool students stayed at the school to make and decorate collection boxes out of milk cartons to take home for aluminum tabs from beverage cans which are recycled to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The service day “allows us to live the mission of our school and our faith while serving the community in which we live,” said Peggy McAuliffe, a parent of triplets in the sixth grade who assisted with organizing the event.
Prior to the service day, students learned about the agencies and prayed for the people being served. For example, McAuliffe said, some of the people being served are participants in Special Olympics, so the Ste. Genevieve students learned about what it means to have special needs and raised money for the organization.
“This is the home-run day that brings it all together for us,” she said.
At the Pet Adoption Center, Lucia noticed that Saint calmed as she read the book. “He enjoyed it and didn’t bark,” she said.
Evan agreed with his classmate’s assessment. “He was listening,” Evan said.
Before the students visited the animals, Gina Breadon, community outreach coordinator with the county’s animal care and control, gave students a lesson about caring for pets and safety rules for themselves and for the animals. The students who visited a dog named Romero came away pleased. “He liked to play,” said Stone Lobosco. “I liked petting him.”
Another student, Molly O’Shea, said she’d like to work at the adoption center when she is old enough. “I learned that dogs aren’t scary,” she said.
Stone’s mom, Colby Lobosco, said the students learned how to treat animals responsibly and to “show compassion and love to those who don’t get to go home every night.”
Mimi Rudolph, a teacher’s aide at the school, said the service day reinforces what students learn in school. “It starts their mind exploring what their talents are and gives them confidence,” she said.
A few eighth-grade students led a prayer service at the start of the day, asking for a blessing of their work, help to become better Christians. Anthony Van Gessel, principal of the school, told the students that service is “part of who we are as Catholics.”
Later, Van Gessel said Ste. Genevieve School wants students to gain a habit of serving others. “We believe that service helps give our students greater appreciation for the struggles of others and makes them more compassionate people. We also recognize Christ’s call to serve the least of his brothers and sisters in Matthew 25,” Van Gessel said.
The Gospel makes service “a moral imperative for our students,” he said.
On their service day, Ste. Genevieve du Bois students helped students at Eagle Prep Elementary School in St. Louis pick out a book and small book shelves donated by Ste. Genevieve students. Other students: assisted with tasks at Kids Under Twenty-One; helped officiate and coordinate Special Olympics competition; cleaned and sorted items at Our Lady’s Inn; played with and read to students at the Carmelite Early Childhood Center; sorted and cleaned items at Nurses for Newborns; and read to dogs at the St. Louis County Pet Adoptions Center.
The mission of Ste. Genevieve du Bois School is to plant the seeds for a lifetime of inquisitive learning and faith-filled service through a challenging academic curriculum. The school seeks to nurture children as they develop into successful, confident leaders with a strong educational knowledge, critical problem-solving skills and solid Catholic faith. By sharing Christ’s message of love, service and salvation, these principles become a guiding force throughout students’ lives.
Reading to Animals
Reading with soothing voices really does make a difference in animals who are in a stressful environment, according to Katrina Utz, interim program director of the St. Louis County Animal Care and Control. Utz was pleased with a visit by Ste. Genevieve du Bois School first-graders who read to the animals on a service day April 11.
Sometimes, when readers aren’t available, the St. Louis County Pet Adoption Center staff plays books on tape for the animals, Utz said. “You can feel and hear the difference,” she said.
The center, 10521 Baur Blvd. in Olivette, seeks volunteers to help with socializing and exercising pets as well as other roles. For information, call (314) 615-0650.