Students spread hope one sandwich, lunch bag at a time

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St. John Vianney preschoolers and kindergarteners and some older art students decorated 900 lunch bags to distribute to André House guests April 13. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
St. John Vianney preschoolers and kindergarteners and some older art students decorated 900 lunch bags to distribute to André House guests April 13. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

[dropcap type=”2″]I[/dropcap]t started as a first-grade service project, but spread to every corner of campus.

Despite its name, the “PB&J Drive” at St. John Vianney was never about collecting non-perishables for those in need. It was a hands-on effort for 300 students to feed the hungry, both body and soul.

Since most of its students were too young to volunteer in person at André House, which serves some 600 plates six nights a week, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at school — slightly more grape than strawberry — along with almost 100 loaves of bread became their ticket in. Their twice-a-year effort affords guests who work during the day but are still without the comforts of home a true lunch break. The latest session wrapped up April 13.

Younger students and those whose peanut allergies prevented them from being near the massive production pre-decorated brown lunch bags. They drew hearts, hands, animals and even themselves. Others wrote notes such as “Here is your lunch,” “Hope you like this!” “We care about you” and “Don’t give up.”

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Hear more from André House

Archived episode on #TheBishopsHour from March 7.
Cue up the 20:15 mark.

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“A hand-decorated bag says to the person who receives it, ‘Someone was thinking about and praying for you as they made this meal for you,’” said Holy Cross Father Tom Doyle, director of André House. “We don’t see many children in our neighborhood, so even the artwork of pens and crayons connects our guests to a larger part of humanity.”

School parents donated the main ingredients as the admission fee for St. John Vianney’s annual Halloween party. The parish’s Vincentian conference donated the bread with area businesses and churchgoers donating snacks, fruit and water bottles over the years. The effort has grown so much that this marks the fifth year that students made the sandwiches in the hall instead of in their classrooms.

Junior high students make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to distribute to André House guests April 13. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Junior high students make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to distribute to André House guests April 13. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Despite the slight change in venue and delivery method — junior high honor students once brought the sandwiches and stayed to serve a warm dinner at André House — there’s a consistent message.

Johua Dreher prepares to bag up the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he made for André House guests April 13. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Johua Dreher prepares to bag up the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he made for André House guests April 13. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

“They are providing one more meal that day for people served by André House,” said Melissa Shulski, a parent coordinator. More importantly, she repeatedly reminded the students that their efforts would bring hope to those often living with so little physically and spiritually.

Five 30-minute shifts that sandwiched the student’s own lunch hour netted 900 lunches for others. Each one contained a sandwich, fruit and a granola bar. Shulski, whose daughter was in the first grade class that originated the effort — the teacher has since retired — loves seeing student enthusiasm for the effort.

“They are eager to help each other during the sandwich-making process,” Shulski said.

St. John Vianney third-graders, including Samantha, pray before preparing three sandwiches each for guests who are homeless and vulnerable at André House. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
St. John Vianney third-graders, including Samantha, pray before preparing three sandwiches each for guests who are homeless and vulnerable at André House. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Eighth-graders were especially diligent in making a quality sandwich. They’ve been involved since first grade, the project’s second year.

“To help other people, to touch other people’s hearts can make a different experience for them. Helps them keep on going,” said eighth-grader Joshua Dreher.

Third-grader Samantha Coch decorated both sides of several lunch bags in advance of sandwich-making day. She made three sandwiches — as part of a service project prior to her Confirmation and first Communion April 16.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing an amazing thing for people to know that I’m helping someone in need,” Coch said. “Some people don’t have food to eat at night and we feed them as a school.”

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Related story: 9-year-old feeds homeless with sacks of hope

From a television station in Vancouver, Washington

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