It began with a video on Facebook — students at St. Norbert School in Florissant offered a friendly challenge to neighboring students at St. Ferdinand and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne to collect change for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
St. Norbert students got a head start. From an out-of-uniform day held Aug. 29, students collected $910.85.
"I thought, can we treat it like the Ice Bucket Challenge, where it's not really a competition, but you want people to join you," said St. Norbert principal Rebecca Nestor. Word spread quickly on Facebook, and soon she was getting calls from fellow principals. "They said our teachers are telling us you've got a challenge out there," Nestor said.
Wanting to do something for victims of Harvey, the students took ownership of the idea, suggesting the out-of-uniform day. Nestor showed them the letter from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, calling on parishes of the archdiocese to hold a special collection for relief efforts, with proceeds going to Catholic Charities.
"I was proud of my kids for saying OK and to go forward," Nestor said. "I'm happy they raised that much. We want that enthusiasm to carry forward."
This is just the beginning of the collection efforts. An invitation was extended to the North County Federation of Catholic Schools, which includes 10 elementary schools in north St. Louis County. Principals at the other schools were just as enthusiastic when it came up for discussion at the federation's regular meeting of professional learning teams Sept. 1.
"All of the schools are going their own thing, but they are doing something to support hurricane relief efforts," said Cara Koen, the federation's advancement director.
Students will collect change in the next month and on Sept. 27, student representatives from each school will bring their donations to SSM Health DePaul Hospital. The hospital partners with the federation schools for its CatholicFIT health and wellness program. The donations will be pooled together and given to Catholic Charities St. Louis. Additionally, students will hear from Shelly Cordum, DePaul's chief nursing officer, who was involved with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
Last week, St. Louis Catholic schools' superintendent Kurt Nelson sent an email to Catholic school and PSR administrators, encouraging them to send their monetary donations to Catholic Charities St. Louis or directly to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Nelson said he connected with Debra Haney, superintendent of Catholic schools in Galveston-Houston. Of the 60 elementary and high schools in the archdiocese there, only a few were rendered uninhabitable. However, many of those school families were individually affected by the flooding and other damage left by the storm.
"I learned that it's really not supplies that are needed as much as monetary donations," Nelson said. "Families affected need help with gas, groceries or other basic needs. There also is a need for monetary donations to help offset tuition."
He also encouraged Catholic schools here to adopt a school in Galveston-Houston with the same or similar name, "so that our students can express their love, prayer, and support to the students of Texas directly. ... If your school shares a similar name with one of them, please encourage a class or your entire student body to send cards, pictures, letters, homemade rosaries, etc."