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Sophomore joins family in service to the homeless

Sophomore Eli Watson has come to appreciate the real gift of serving others by volunteering with his family to feed the homeless through Hip Hop Cares. Hip Hop Cares is a nonprofit organization in Louisville that sets up at First Street and Broadway under the overpass on Sunday afternoons to provide food, drinks, toiletries, clothing, shoes, and more to those in need.

Eli and his family began serving last fall after his mom saw an ad asking for volunteers, he said. She wanted Eli and his brother, Tre Watson ’16, to go so they could experience helping others in need. Ever since, they’ve returned every Sunday that his mom doesn’t have to work. 

Eli said he usually helps distribute food, and sometimes he has passed out bottled water or snack bags as people have waited in the long line. Sometimes he helps collect the trash left from people’s meals. Seeing the great need has had an impact on him.

“It keeps me humble and seeing a lot of people love and respect the homeless,” Eli said.

He also appreciates the positive attitude of those who are being helped.

“They don’t have a lot, but they still show a lot of love to the people helping out,” he said.

Sophomore Morgan Michels agreed. She served alongside the Watson family a few weeks ago and said it helped her be more appreciative of what she has.

“It felt good helping people because you know not everyone is as fortunate as you,” Morgan said.

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Schmidts spend fall break on medical mission trip

Helping others is just part of who Dr. Toni (Sartini) Schmidt ’78 is. Whether she is working with a patient in her Palmyra dental practice or in the Dominican Republic on a medical mission trip, she simply wants the person to feel better. She has been working with patients in her office for nearly 30 years, and earlier this month shared her dental expertise on her fourth mission trip.

Schmidt started going on the trips when her oldest daughter, Peyton ’14, was a sophomore as a way to help her experience serving others in need in other countries. She later took her daughter Maria ’16, and her husband, Mike ’78, took their son, Manny ’18, a few years later. Schmidt also has gone on a medical mission trip on her own, and this was her first with her husband. They accompanied a group from Northside Christian Church in New Albany, which partnered with Casa por Christo, a group that built a home during the trip.

Mike, who helped in her dental practice in its early years, called on those dental skills once again and served as her dental assistant. Toni Schmidt was only able to perform tooth extractions, so she focused on dental hygiene education for most of the patients. The pair worked well together, even in the primitive conditions, with Mike having to kneel on the floor because the dental chair was so low to the ground.

Schmidt said despite the poverty of the area and the stark conditions, the pair felt richly blessed by the people they served. They prayed with every patient following their treatment, and were also blessed by that experience. In one instance, the medical team and some patients were in a circle praying when a young teenage boy asked to lead the prayer. When she asked for the translation, she learned that he had prayed for her, her helper, and their family at home.

“It just touched us so deeply,” she said.

Schmidt also was touched by the similarities that she shared with many of the mothers with whom she worked. She realized that many of the people often wait until they are in pain before seeking dental care. So she focused on education to encourage them to care for their teeth to prevent the need for pulling them. When she talked to the children and teenagers through a translator, she heard the same thing from their mothers that she does in Indiana – that they just won’t brush their teeth.

“We’re all the same,” Schmidt said.

Helping other organizations
Providing dental care in the Dominican Republic wasn’t the only service to others Schmidt provided recently. In September, she raised $15,000 in donations for Hosparus at its annual Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, a competition she almost had to cancel thanks to having broken her foot in May. After seven weeks using a scooter, she was healed in just enough time to begin dancing practice.

Schmidt said she was glad for the opportunity to help such an organization – and for an excuse to get back in shape after not being able to walk. Now she is back to running but regrets she will likely never run a marathon again since her foot can’t take the stress. An avid runner for years, she has run in the Kentucky Derby Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in her brother Gino Sartini ‘82’s name. Instead, she’ll focus on shorter races.

And now that she’s home again, she’ll focus on her family and her patients. She enjoys dentistry as much she has always since 1986, when she earned her dental degree while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. Her first few years as a dentist were in active duty at Ft. Knox, but she has led her own private practice since 1989.

“I love it,” she said of being a dentist. “I like the artistic part of it. I like that I can make someone feel more confident and have compassion not to hurt them. Then they become a patient who likes going to the dentist.”

As for future medical mission trips, Schmidt said she likely will go but doesn’t know when – until she feels God calling her to it. She has taken a trip about every two years with a team from Northside and Casa por Christo. She likes being part of that group because the mission is well organized, and she has always felt safe no matter in which country they serve. And she is happy for the chance to share the Gospel along with dental care education.

“Everyone has something (medical expertise) they can bring,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t about how many teeth I pulled; it was about serving and educating. I wanted to let them know we all serve the same God.”

Serving God is the main impetus for each of her trips.

“I feel like I’m being obedient to God’s word when he says to go out and spread the Gospel to the nations,” she said. “If I can be a part of that, that’s what I want to be.”

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Sophomore loves to help others

Sophomore Beth Wimsatt already has nearly four times the necessary amount of service hours to meet her graduation requirement. But she has no plans to stop helping others. She is a member of the New Albany Deanery Youth Ministry Action Team (YMAT) and is involved at her parish, St. Mary of the Knobs, from volunteering at the parish fish fry to babysitting during Bible study sessions. What she has most enjoyed, though, are the summer camps and mission trips she has been involved in.

The summer before her freshman year, she participated in the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries Faith in Action, a four-day mission trip that provides local service opportunities. This past summer, she traveled to Campton, Ky., on the Wolfe Pack Mission Trip to provide service to the Appalachian community. She also spent a week as a counselor for the first time at Camp Marian on the grounds of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception and run by the Sisters of St. Benedict.

Her Camp Marian service was a new opportunity to return to the camp that she had attended as a participant for the previous three summers. Beth first found out about the four-day camp for middle school girls from a family friend, and the two were signed up to attend when her friend couldn’t go at the last minute. Beth said she was initially afraid that she would not have any fun without her friend, but she soon met new friends that she continues to connect with today.

“You really form a bond with everybody there from canoeing, swimming, and walking around the property,” Beth said. “You just have fun.”

The girls camp out in tents near the lake and take part in a number of activities, including archery and crafts. After having so much fun the first summer, Beth returned for two more sessions. This past summer, she chose to return in the only way she could – as a leader. She said being a camp counselor added a new dimension to the experience.

“It’s almost more fun to lead it,” Beth said. “You get to get there a day earlier and have lunch and dinner with the Sisters and experience their lifestyle. (I also liked) just getting to know the other counselors and getting to help others have fun.”

Beth, second from left, rehearses a scene from Honk! during Musical Theatre Production class.

Beth said she plans to continue helping others, something she learned from her mom and older sister. She knows her service hours exceed what’s required, but she doesn’t serve to rack up hours.

“It’s not for the numbers, but it’s just counting what I already do,” she said. “It’s just something I love to do now.”

Of her current service activities, Beth is active in YMAT and said she enjoys planning activities for Deanery youth. Not only is it satisfying to create opportunities for middle schoolers to “build their connection to their faith,” but she also has made close friendships with other teens on the YMAT board.

Beth also is on the JV Girls Soccer team and is active in theatre. She will play the role of the Lady in Red in the children’s show, The Enchanted Bookshop, which will be performed Oct. 26-27 , and the role of JayBird in Honk!, a musical adaptation of The Ugly Duckling put on by the PHS Musical Theater Production Class Nov. 8-11.

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Students serve, learn and win over break

Summer may be a break from the routine of school, but it still can be a time of learning and helping others, as sophomore Beth Wimsatt, junior Regan Elias, and seniors Sydney Boggs and Tyler Upton found. Tyler and Beth took part in the Wolfe Pack Mission Trip with the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries, serving the poor in Campton, Ky. Regan attended the five-day Washington Youth Summit on the Environment at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., followed by a weekend at the nearby Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. And Tyler and Sydney took part in the Clark County 4-H Fair.

Beth and Tyler spent five days helping several families with home repairs, including painting, building a wheelchair ramp, and replacing old wood siding. Although many of the days were filled with hard work, the group did have some fun, such as hiking at Natural Bridge State Park and attending a local dance. The experience had a big impact on them both.

“Wolfe Pack this year was a life changing experience,” Tyler said. “In just five days, we spent in Wolfe County, Kentucky, we helped several different families in ways such as painting, building/woodworking skills, and much more. We also grew closer as a group through prayer, adoration, and adventure excursions each night. These adventure excursions included viewing the local, breathtaking scenery all the way to attending a ‘hoedown’ to learn the local dances. I enjoyed every moment of the trip and cannot wait to attend next year!”

Beth said she was particularly touched by the people they helped.

“This trip provides the opportunity to reach out to community members of the region’s poorest area,” she said. “I quickly grew to respect the dignity the people had even in their situation. I was able to work on a variety of projects like build a ramp for someone who is wheelchair-bound, replace and repaint rotted siding on an old house, put in the ceiling, walls, and doors in a new home, and several other things to help make the world a better and more beautiful place.

“I also cannot forget the many wonderful friends I have met and made just over a six-day camp. These are people that I will know for the rest of my life and always remember.”

Winning at the 4-H Fair

When Tyler returned from his mission trip, he was able to catch the end of the Clark County 4-H Fair and show three of his pigs that he raises on his grandfather’s farm. Of his three entries, his Berkshire pig won reserve champion, the equivalent of second place, and senior Dylan Seal’s pig won third place.

Tyler also entered three static projects, posters featuring aerospace, shooting sports, and his 4-H achievements. His aerospace entry won grand champion, champion, and an entry in the Indiana State Fair – and he’ll find out this weekend how well he did at the state level.

Senior Sydney Boggs displays her reserved champion and blue ribbons for her photography entry.

Tyler is involved in three clubs in 4-H, including a junior leaders club and one focusing on gun safety and shooting sports. He said he likes being in 4-H in part because of the chance to help others in the community, such as with its recent backpack project to help needy schoolchildren get the necessary school supplies.

Tyler’s sister, junior Amanda Upton, also competed in the 4-H Fair and won reserve champion on her achievement project. Her crossbred pig entry won its class but did not score in the overall breed category.

Sydney is president of her 4-H club and often enters the cake decorating contest but this year entered the photography category. She received a blue ribbon and reserved champion. 

She said she likes being in 4-H because of how close the members are.

 

Learning in the nation’s capitol

Regan also had a memorable experience. She was invited to attend the WYSE conference and said she was thrilled at the opportunity to attend study sessions on large animal care. She hopes to become a veterinarian and is intrigued by the prospect of helping large animals.

“Big animals you only see when they’re in pain and you can help them get better,” she said.

The conference included break-out sessions, including ones on large animal care, as well as several speakers and tours of the monuments in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol Building, several Smithsonian museums, and her favorite, the National Zoo.

Regan extended her trip with a three-day stay at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, where her group set up cameras to capture photos of animals in the conservation grounds and did several other activities.

She said she enjoyed getting a taste of dorm life and is now looking forward to college. And after spending a week there, she has added George Mason to her list of prospects.

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’68 alumnus finds way to give through second career

When Greg Henderzahs ’68 was downsized in 2009 after 39 years at American Commercial Barge Lines, he wasn’t ready to retire. He chose instead to apply his business skills to leading local nonprofit agencies, first at Camp Quality Kentuckiana and for the last five years at the Center for Lay Ministries in downtown Jeffersonville. During that time, he has helped the agency focus on what it does best – a food pantry and a halfway house for women. Now that he’s closer to age 70, the time is right for retirement, although he’s still “not ready to do nothing,” he said.

In his time as executive director of CLM, Henderzahs has learned a lot about the community and the vast need among its less fortunate. He has done his best to streamline the operations of the non-profit agency so it can effectively help those who deal daily with issues such as hunger and recovery from addiction. He treats its clients with compassion, learning their names and their stories, and sometimes helping out of his own pocket.

“Working at ACBL for 39 years, it was just completely different,” he said. “I wasn’t aware of things like poverty, homelessness, addiction, the need for halfway houses. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Then I got here, and I really feel like I’ve made a difference. I hope I have made a difference.”

The Center does indeed make a difference. In its last fiscal year, the food pantry served nearly 20,000 people, from bags of food that can be prepared without cooking for those who are homeless to providing a supply of pantry staples to those in need. Its Bliss House and Bliss House Too help women recovering from addiction by providing stability, boundaries, addiction recovery services, and faith support.

Henderzahs also has learned much about the value of volunteers. He can’t run the agency and offer its services alone – nor can the budget afford to pay people to staff all of its positions. So it relies on about 75 volunteers – who man the food pantry, serve on the Bliss House Committee, and serve on CLM’s board of directors. He has come to see that such help is essential to the success not only of his agency but to the country at large.

“Volunteers are the heartbeat of America,” he said. “If we don’t have volunteers to do the many things that volunteers do, I don’t know how we as a country can do what we do. Volunteers are so important.”

Financial support and food donations are important too. ACBL has become a valued partner for the agency, as is Meijer’s Simply Give Campaign, which matches customers’ purchase of donation gift cards. Dare to Care in Louisville and the Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis provide the bulk of the food donations, with local churches, organizations, and individuals filling in the gaps.

Henderzahs’ leadership focus is to run the agency like a business as much as possible, but with a difference. Its resources come from donations and grants, not from selling or manufacturing things. But like any good CEO, he knows who to tap to provide the necessary help, whether the mayor or the sheriff’s office or a local paving company to help with snow removal. And he’s not shy about asking his friends and former classmates to pitch in.

“A lot of folks I reel in to help,” Henderzahs said. “I coaxed them. They knew I needed help, and I knew they had the skill sets and abilities to do the things I needed.”

For example, Dave Nole ’68 drives the Center’s truck to pick up food donations from Dare to Care, Carl Koetter ’68 trains the volunteers, and Mike Lankert ’68 serves on the board – to name a few.

As he plans for retirement in November, he intends to continue serving on the City of New Albany Parks & Recreation Board, the New Albany Planning Commission, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, his parish. He may even pick up a few more volunteer opportunities, but it won’t be at the Center, as much as he loves the people there.

“My replacement needs to be able to manage things without me being around and without people coming to me and saying, ‘Greg, what do you think,’” he said.

Henderzahs and his wife of 48 years, Patricia, live in New Albany. Their children are alumni, Kim (Henderzahs) Arnson ’90 and Dr. Kevin Henderzahs ’93. Their grandson Ben Arnson is a 2017 graduate and grandson Jack Arnson is a junior.

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Local attorney helps physician stay in U.S.

As an attorney and Clarksville town judge, Jimmie Guilfoyle ’05 has heard many stories from clients and trial defendants. But few moved him like that of Dr. Ali, a Louisville intensive care pulmonary specialist and a native of Syria. The physician works at the same Louisville hospital with Guilfoyle’s wife, Casey, a nurse. Dr. Ali had heard her husband was an attorney and one day earlier this year approached her to see if he might be able to help him resolve his stagnant Permanent Residence Card application.

She immediately called her husband, and upon hearing his story, Guilfoyle picked up the phone and started calling anyone he could think of to help. Thanks to his efforts, Dr. Ali can now remain working in the United States and travel to see his family for the first time in years.

Prior to helping Dr. Ali, Guilfoyle had no experience in immigration law. In fact, he didn’t know where to begin to help him, but he knew he had to.

“I heard a story that pulled at my heart, and I took a vested personal interest in this man because of who I perceived him to be, and I was just not going to stop until we accomplished this,” Guilfoyle said.

Dr. Ali, on left, poses with his uncle, an Atlanta surgeon who has become like a father to him since he has been unable to return home.

Dr. Ali first came to the United States 10 years ago after earning his medical degree from the University of Aleppo. Under a student visa, he completed his residency and came to Louisville under a fellowship and opted to stay. In the meantime, the civil war in Syria broke out.

His family was scattered, his brother was killed in an air strike on civilians, and his parents’ home was severely damaged by bombs several times. His desire to return home to practice medicine after completing his fellowship waned the more he became accustomed to the freedoms and the acceptance he experienced in this country and as his home country was destroyed by war.

“From the first time I came to this country, they treated me with the utmost dig and respect,” Dr. Ali said. “I have an accent. I look different. But no one treated me like I didn’t belong. I always wanted to serve this country because it treated me with the utmost respect and dignity. I came from country where it is a dictatorship – I love my country. It was beautiful before the war – but on the other hand, the dictatorship was on our neck. To be able to come from that country and be treated like I was treated – I appreciate what this country gave me.”

The physicians’s application for his Green Card, as it is more commonly known, had been filed several years ago and despite efforts of immigration attorneys in New York, had yet to be processed and was soon to expire. That meant losing his job, losing his home, and even the potential of facing arrest or execution upon his return to Syria.

Guilfoyle started the process of helping him by reaching out to those he thought could make a difference. After several leads and attempts, he finally was able to speak to Rep. John Yarmuth and share Dr. Ali’s story – and the sense of urgency. If Dr. Ali were to be deported, he likely would be arrested in part because he did not comply with the country’s mandatory military service requirement, either by enlisting or paying the fee to defer it. And he has been vocal against the war and the regime. Those who are arrested for such crimes are never seen again, Dr. Ali said.

After Rep. Yarmuth heard Dr. Ali’s story, his office reached out to the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington, D.C., and the application finally began to be processed – although with no guarantee of approval. Then in June, Dr. Ali finally did receive his Green Card and is now classified as a permanent resident. He can continue to work here and can now travel to see his family for the first time. A family reunion in a country neighboring Syria is already in the works.

Dr. Ali said he is immensely grateful to the efforts Guilfoyle underwent on his behalf – all without charge.

“He went above and beyond for no benefit except to help me,” Dr. Ali said. “He’s trying to help people. He’s trying to help his country. Not only me, but my family, my parents, they are so grateful.”

Guilfoyle said he was happy to help. He sees Dr. Ali as an asset to our community, as a brilliant physician, and as a person who needed his hope restored.

“He’s a son; he’s a brother; he bleeds red just like we do,” Guilfoyle said. “By all accounts everything he’s done in his life is either to improve his lot in life or improve somebody else’s. I don’t see why it makes it any diff where he was born. If that the kind of person you are, I want you in my community. As far as what I did, I don’t feel like I did a whole lot for him except making a lot of phone calls.”

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Alumnus’ love for Crusade comes full circle

For Sgt. Michael Osborne ’05, his admiration for firefighters and his involvement with the WHAS Crusade for Children have been intertwined his whole life. His godfather, Dale Popp ’69, a retired Jeffersonville fire captain, was active on the department when Osborne was growing up, When Osborne was in third grade, Popp invited him to ride on the firetruck and help collect for the Crusade. At the time, Osborne was more thrilled with the prospect of riding on the firetruck than helping others, but collecting for the Crusade became an annual routine. Now, he has made both loves part of his career as a Jeffersonville firefighter.

It wasn’t until Osborne was an emergency medical technician with Yellow Ambulance after high school that the benefit of all those years collecting hit home. A few of his runs would involve transporting young cancer patients to the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville. There he saw the Crusade logo posted in play areas and other places in the medical facility.

“That really made me realize that as a kid (what I collected), this was here that money went to,” he said. “I saw that and I thought, ‘Okay, I need to step up and be more involved.”

In 2008, Osborne followed in his godfather’s footsteps and joined the Jeffersonville Fire Department and proudly participated in its Crusade collection activities. Two years later, he was offered the chance to oversee the department’s Crusade activities, and he gladly took on the responsibility. That year, the department collected its highest amount ever, nearly $57,000.

Osborne was stunned at the total and quickly realized he had just set a lofty goal to hit every year. The department didn’t pass that total in the next seven years, but there’s always hope that it will, he said.

“It’s been tough to keep the bar at that standard,” he said. “We haven’t done it since then, but that’s our goal to beat that one day. We will. It’s just going to take time and effort.”

Osborne has added several fundraisers to help boost the department’s contributions. In 2011, he started an annual fishing tournament to benefit the Crusade. He works with Bass Pro Shop and A20 Boating Supplies and Pro Shop to run the event and for donations for raffle prizes. Competitors fish on the Ohio River from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and return to a spread cooked by J & L Catering and paid for by the Jeffersonville Fire Fighters Local 558.

About 20 to 30 boats participate, many of them repeat competitors who enjoy competitive fishing and the chance to donate to the Crusade. This year’s tournament had 23 boats and brought in one of its highest totals at $4,750, thanks to numerous sponsors and the winners donating back their first place prize – a guaranteed $1,000 pot.

Several other events will happen this weekend during the annual Crusade Weekend. Several years ago, the Heartland Payment Systems vs. JFD basketball game was added. The game is a fun culmination of all the fundraising activities that take place at the company for the Crusade throughout the year. It’s mainly a “battle for bragging rights,” and department’s success often depends on who’s on duty. It’s not unusual for some of the players to be called out on runs during the game, and sometimes bystanders get pulled in as subs, Osborne said.

On Friday, First Harrison Bank located at 2744 Allison Lane in Jeffersonville, will host a fundraising cookout from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the firefighters collect donations at a nearby roadblock. Kevin Burke ’78, business development officer and vice president for the bank branch, is a big help in that fundraising effort, which usually brings in between $4,000 and $5,000 between the cookout and the roadblock, Osborne said.

Osborne has learned that organizing the department’s Crusade collection efforts is more than a one-person job, and he lets others handle organizing the individual events like the charity basketball game and the cookout. He has gotten busier over the last eight years by taking up a part-time job, but the department also is busy and fire runs sometimes interfere with its plans to hold roadblocks in the last two weekends of May. That’s why he’s appreciative of help from local groups and teams like the Providence Football team, which has helped out on Crusade weekends the last few years.

File Photo

Fellow Jeffersonville firefighter Chris McCain ’86 and Coach Larry Denison ’86 are friends, and McCain has sons on the team. So McCain approached Osborne with an offer for the team’s help as a way for the team to conduct a charity event and earn the players service hours. The team has been a big help, especially with some of the city’s larger neighborhoods, Osborne said. With the team’s assistance, a 500-home subdivision can be canvassed in about an hour. He looks forward to their helping again this weekend.

“I really enjoy having the help of the Providence Football team,” Osborne said, noting that he welcomes any team or students who want to help on Saturday. “It doesn’t have to be just the football team, though. “I’ll take as much help as I can get.”

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Seniors go beyond the minimum for service

Our students are required to accumulate 60 hours in service to organizations outside of school over their four years here. For some students, once they begin volunteering, they soon find that they enjoy helping others and go beyond the minimum requirement. Many of these students are involved in their parish youth ministry and were recognized by the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries last week, including the following:

  • Senior Katie Baker, who was previously featured in the eVision for her having received the President’s Volunteer Service Award as a sophomore and for initiating a mission trip to Guatemala  with senior Natalie Gallegos, received the C.J. Smith Service Above Self award.
  • Senior Ethan Furnish, who was previously featured for his service work, received the Dean Kraemer Spirit of Hope award.
  • Senior Heidi Popson, who is featured below, received the Fr. Tom Stumph Excellence in Leadership award.

For a full list of students recognized for their Deanery youth ministry participation, click here. Read below for a description of six seniors and their service work.

Seniors Emma Flispart, Ryan Strahm, and Heidi Popson have nearly 600 hours combined serving in various church ministries.

Heidi Popson accumulated nearly 150 service hours serving primarily as a youth leader for Holy Family Youth Ministry and a regular volunteer for the soup kitchen at St. Paul Episcopal in New Albany. She plans to attend Indiana University-Bloomington and major in nursing.

Question: Why did you get involved in those service areas?
Answer: I got involved in youth ministry in order to stay active at my grade school after eighth grade. I got involved at the soup kitchen mostly after our Sophomore Retreat when we were able to sit down and talk to people eating at the soup kitchen. I was able to see just how impactful these meals were. I felt that I was capable of ensuring that this would remain available to those who need it.

Q. What do you like about volunteering for those specific ministries?
A. I enjoy volunteering at Holy Family in order to represent the youth’s voice when planning activities and working to draw as many students to participate in these activities as possible. I enjoy working at the soup kitchen because it allows me to connect with people whom I do not usually encounter in my daily life and to show them equal dignity and respect.

Q. What do you like about service in general?
A. In general, I like that service allows me to use my talents and abilities to build and maintain my local community. I also like that it allows me to make connections with people who are often forgotten.

Q. Who was your primary role model in doing service?
A. My primary role model in doing service for others was Abbi Hamm ’16. I always looked up to her while she was at Providence.

Claire Harper, middle, poses with two other students while on a mission trip in Appalachia.

Claire Harper has nearly 200 service hours, primarily by participating in various mission trips offered by the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries, including Faith in Action and Wolfe Pack mission trips. The Faith in Action mission trip is a local mission trip helping members in the local community with various activities and repairs. The Wolfe Pack mission trip serves the Appalachian people in the town of Campton, Ky., with house repairs or companionship. She also was a member of YMAT (Youth Ministry Action Team) and helped plan and manage events put on by the New Albany Deanery. Claire will attend Bellarmine University and study biology on a pre-med track.

Question: Why did you get involved in those service areas?
Answer: I first began to get involved in these service areas because my older sister, Natalie Harper ’15, had also been involved in these service areas. I watched and saw the expertise that she acquired through mission trips and YMAT, and I decided that I, too, wanted to have the same kind of experiences that she had. The first mission trip that I went on was Faith in Action. I loved this trip so much, so I just continued to go on them.

Q. What do you like about volunteering for those specific ministries?
A. I really enjoy attending mission trips because I get to help and interact with people I do not necessarily know, but get to know through this service. With the Wolfe Pack mission trip, we are only in Campton for less than a week. However, by the end of the week, it is like we, too, are a part of their small community. Simply experiencing the compassion expressed from the people in this community is enough to keep coming back time after time. I enjoy working with YMAT because I am able to be a part of the background work that goes into planning and managing the same Deanery events that I enjoyed attending when I was a kid.

Q. What do you like about service in general?
A. I enjoy service in general simply because of the human connection formed through it. I usually don’t know the people connected with the service I do, but no matter who they are or what they do, the underlying connection that is formed over the course of the service surprises me every time. Just to be able to get to know a complete stranger in such an intimate way makes service worth it every single time.

Q. Do you feel you represent Providence in these ministries?
A. I do feel like I represent Providence in my areas of service especially with service located in this region. As I serve my community, I honor Providence and help boost our reputation as a compassionate and gracious community.

Emma Flispart has nearly 200 service hours, primarily from helping with the St. Anthony track team and St. Anthony Youth Ministry planning team. She plans to attend Indiana University Southeast and study nursing.

Question: Why did you get involved in this ministry?
Answer: Our youth minister sent out an email asking if I could help with the team for service hours. I love track, so that’s why I help. My brother is also on the team, so I take him to practice most of the time anyway. I help coach third through eighth grade shot put and discus, and whatever else they need. I do those events for the Providence Track team, so it helps me help them.

Q. What do you like about volunteering for those ministries?
A. I like that they (track athletes) generally want to do it and want to be taught. I’m always proud of them because they do work hard in practice. And I like planning and then working the events for our youth ministry.

Q. Do you feel you represent Providence in these ministries?
A. I do. Several of the girls have said they want to be on the team here. That makes me feel good.

Q. Who was your primary role model in doing service?
A. My parents do a lot at St. Anthony. I don’t do it (volunteer) for the service hours. I like to help.

Ryan Strahm has nearly 200 hours primarily through volunteering at Northside Christian Church, where his family attends in addition to St. John Paul II. He plans to attend IUB and major in business economics and public policy.

Question: Why did you get involved in this ministry?
Answer: I’ve been helping out on Sundays every other week since fifth grade in the early childhood area. Now I do lights and sounds for the children’s shows every other week at 11:30 a.m. At first, I was helping my parents in their classroom. Then they started the childcare, and I started helping there. When I got old enough, I was able to volunteer for what I really wanted to do, which is the tech part, and I’ve been doing that ever since.

Q. What do you like about volunteering for those specific ministries?
A. Since I’ve done it so long, I’ve seen kids actually growing up. Now some of them are the same age I was when I first started helping.

Q. What do you like about service in general?
A. It’s a way to get to know people in the community. The same people have been in charge of the program the whole time I’ve been involved, so getting to know them and them know me, has been good. I asked them to write my college recommendation letters. And getting to know people I would’ve never met otherwise is good.

Q. Who was your primary role model in doing service?
A. My parents and my family. My parents have helped at Northside since I was a kid, and my siblings all helped out too. I saw them fulfill their service hours doing something they liked to do.

Jessica Lancaster has nearly 150 hours primarily through coaching middle school cheerleading teams at Holy Family School. She plans to attend IUB. She is undecided about her major but is considering business.

Question: Why did you get involved in coaching cheerleading?
Answer: I’ve been a part of the sport since third grade, and I’ve grown to have a strong passion for it. I love coaching and helping out my Deanery school. I would also love to coach a high school team one day.

Q: What do you like about service in general?
A: Service is very satisfying. Knowing that you are doing something you love for the better of others is very motivating.

Q: Who were your primary role models in doing service for others?
A: My role models were my middle school cheerleading coaches. I loved cheerleading at Holy Family when I was young, and I wanted to help continue the tradition.

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Youth ministry event mixes prayer, service, fun

On Good Friday, many of our students took part in one of two Food Fast/Shantytown experiences held at St. Mary’s of the Knobs and Holy Family. The events were planned by the parishes’ youth ministry and included an overnight experience of prayer, fasting, service and sleeping in cardboard boxes. At St. Mary of the Knobs, which included youth from St. Mary Navilleton and St. John Starlight, students kept a prayer vigil in the church, prayed the outdoor Stations of the Cross, prepared food to deliver to Louisville homeless people, and put candy in Easter eggs for the parish Easter egg hunt. At Holy Family, the youth helped clean the church in preparation for Easter and on Saturday, helped clean the grounds and outbuildings at Mount Saint Francis.

Youth from St. Mary of the Knobs, St. Mary Navilleton, and St. John Starlight built a shantytown from cardboard boxes in order to experience the plight of the homeless.

Junior Sam Kruer, sophomores Brigid Welch and Nadia Brooks, and freshman Maria Popson were among those who took part in the St. Mary of the Knobs event. They helped build the outdoor Shantytown out of cardboard boxes and took part in the prayer and service activities at the church. They took turns in groups of four praying for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament in church, and they rotated in groups of four praying for an hour at the outdoor Stations of the Cross. The youth also donated, prepared the ingredients and assembled more than 200 burritos, wrapped and labeled with a prayerful note, to be delivered the next morning to the homeless. They then rested in the outdoor Shantytown, experiencing the cold conditions many homeless people often face.

The students said it was a challenge to fast, including overcoming the temptation to eat or to be short-tempered as they grew hungrier, but it was a good way to feel solidarity with those who may regularly go without.

Nadia said she was happy to be able to make food for people who might otherwise go hungry. Sleeping in a box outside in the cold was difficult too, but it also made her more aware of others’ needs.
Maria said she enjoyed being able to share the experiences of prayer and service with her friends, even though it was cold outside, and sleeping on cold, hard concrete was difficult.

Brigid said she appreciated being able to pray in adoration after assembling burritos for the homeless because it gave her a chance to reflect on the act of mercy they had just performed. She also enjoyed being able to pray the outdoor stations at night.

“It was super eye opening,” Brigid said. “I was excited to go home to my warm bed afterward, but some people don’t have that.”

Sam said he decided to attend because he had heard about the event last year from his friends. He said it was challenging staying up all night, but he was glad he went. He was among the small group of students who stayed the next morning to ride bicycles to deliver the burritos to the homeless, a ministry known as the Burrito Riders, something he had done before.

Taking part in Shantytown was fun because he got to spend time with friends, he said, but he also enjoyed “meeting some of the homeless when we delivered the burritos.”

Holy Family event focuses on fellowship, service

Junior Alli Conrad and sophomores Max Holman and Carlie Miiller were among those who attended the Holy Family event. Alli, Max, and Carlie said they were eager to attend this year’s event after having participated last year. They said the event was a good mix of service and fellowship with friends, allowing them to meet new people and spend time with those they already knew.

Friday evening, the group cleaned the church and the parking lot in preparation for Easter services, and some helped with a project for the ministry In Heaven’s Eyes. Afterward, they took part in various activities and built their Shantytown in the gym. The next morning, they went to Mount St. Francis to patch potholes and cracks in the pavement and cleaned out a barn.

Max said he thought the event was well planned and appreciated the balance between ‘friendship building and work. It’s a really good way to help out and get service and a really good social thing.”
Alli said she had fun doing service for others with her friends and staying overnight in a box, even if doing without food was somewhat challenging.

“I enjoyed sleeping in the boxes the most because it reminds me of camping, and it is very fun to make the boxes,” Alli said. “I learned that I am very lucky to have a house, so I don’t have to sleep in a box every night.”

Carlie said the fasting was not very difficult because she is used to fasting on Fridays, but the experience of sleeping in the Shantytown, even if it was inside this year due to the cold, made her more aware of her blessings.

“I felt more grateful for what I have at my house and for my family,” Carlie said. “I realized everything I should be thankful for.”

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Grad forms nonprofit to help kids of jailed parents

Lee Ann (Knight) Meixell ’91 is an accountant by trade, but her heart is in volunteering with youth. She is a catechist teaching Christian Faith Formation for St. Augustine and Sacred Heart parishes in Jeffersonville and a former volunteer for the Y-NOW Children of Prisoners Program at the Louisville YMCA. She enjoyed her work with Y-NOW so much that she is working with other volunteers to bring a similar program to Southern Indiana. Their efforts have formed the nonprofit organization HEY Inc. (Help Empower Youth) to provide adult mentors to middle-school-aged children of incarcerated parents.

HEY Inc. is still in the formation stages, with the five members of its board of directors, of which Meixell is president, volunteering to develop the organization’s mission and plan its program launch. The board has developed the organization’s bylaws and will soon start a campaign seeking volunteers to become adult mentors, who will work one on one with the youth in the program. Originally the group had sought the donation of office space for a full-time program director but is moving forward without an office location.

Knight, who is a staff accountant for the City of Jeffersonville, said the goal is to have 25 adult volunteer mentors and 25 middle school youth by the fall. As the board begins working to recruit volunteers, some board members will work with area middle schools for referrals of youth whose parents are incarcerated.

Having volunteered in 2010 and 2012 for the Y-NOW program serving children of incarcerated parents in Jefferson County, Ky., Knight has seen how the program helps children find a sense of stability while their parents are jailed. She wanted the same type of program for youth in Southern Indiana and decided to start one herself when she realized there wasn’t one available.

“There is a need,” Meixell said, citing recent data that shows above average incidents for children with incarcerated parent to one day be jailed themselves.

Similar one-on-one mentoring programs exist in Southern Indiana, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, but there isn’t one exclusively for children of incarcerated parents, and that population has its own set of needs, she said.

“These kids think no one knows what they’re going through,” Meixell said. “We want to show them the community is here to support them.”

Mentors will offer support

Just as Meixell did when volunteering with the Y-NOW program, adult mentors will commit to meeting one on one once a week with the youth in the program for one year. They also will attend a monthly meeting that will bring all the youth in the program together for activities and a meal. HEY Inc. will seek volunteers to help plan, provide, and set up the food at those meetings.

Meixell said she used a lot of what she learned as a Y-NOW volunteer as a guide as the board developed its mission. The one-on-one mentoring program helps the youth, who may feel abandoned or experience a lack of trust, to see there are adults who want to be part of their lives and can provide solid support.

HEY Inc. is going a step further than the program in Kentucky because its goal is to have more community involvement. The board hopes to involve local companies and other programs to demonstrate to the youth that the community is a source of support.

“We want them to know the community doesn’t see them as bad kids just because their parent is incarcerated,” Meixell said.

Meixell said she is pleased with the community response the organization has received so far. When she pitched the idea to people in the community, she said, she was pleased with the positive response she received, including from fellow board member Dan Moore, a Jeffersonville attorney and past Providence parent.

Some people joined the board or offered skills because they knew Meixell from other volunteer experiences. One of those volunteers used to volunteer with Meixell as a Girl Scout leader. She read one of the several news articles published about the fledgling organization and offered to help Meixell develop the budget for the program.

With no funding, Meixell and the board work on launching the program in their spare time. Meixell said she works on it at least an hour a day, and the board members split the tasks, including starting social media pages for the organization, writing press releases, writing a grant for sound equipment for the monthly meetings, researching background checks requirements, and planning a booth for an event in May. Meixell researched information online and filed for the organization’s nonprofit status.

The board has been successful in spreading the word about the launch of the program, and the group hopes that continues as it plans future fundraising activities. The goal is to receive grants and hold fundraisers to support the hiring of a full-time program director. HEY Inc. is looking for more volunteers and for donations, from money to free printing. The organization needs volunteers to make phone calls and to be guest speakers at the future monthly meetings.

And one day, Meixell said, she hopes the organization has enough support that she could become its full-time executive director. She also sees many possibilities for more programming.

“This is just a start,” she said. “Maybe one day we’ll have a similar program for youth with an addicted parent. There’s a lot of potential to grow.”

Answering the call to serve

Meixell said she enjoys working with the middle-school age group. She teaches eighth graders in the Sunday morning CFF program at St. Augustine and has been a catechist for about 15 years, since her daughter, who is now 25, was in third grade. Meixell believes she has a fairly good understanding of middle-schoolers now, which will help with developing programming for HEY Inc.

“They want to be kids, they want to have fun,” she said, noting that she combines teaching with service and other activities to keep their interest. “It’s definitely helped me learn what will work.”

She started working with children as a Girl Scout leader with her daughter and some with her son while he was in Cub Scouts. Once she got involved, she kept answering the call to do more, including following up on a radio ad for Y-NOW volunteers in 2010.

“I’ve always wanted to work with youth after doing Scouts with my children,” Meixell said. “After they got older, I was looking for something else to get involved in. Ever since I did Y-NOW, it’s been on my heart to bring it to Southern Indiana. I just kept hearing, ‘You need to get that going here.’”

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