St. Mark School students start programs to help the needy

One program provides bag lunches

another gives socks to youths

November 26, 2011|By Janene Holzberg, Special to The Baltimore Sun

A literal case of cold feet and an article about students who eat one bag lunch and give away another helped inspire two Baltimore County classmates to organize efforts to benefit those in need.

Joe Hash and Danny Sauter, both eighth-graders at St. Mark School in Catonsville, have launched individual collection drives that are making a difference in the lives of people served by two local institutions.

Joe's project, which he calls the Double Lunch Ministry, involves encouraging students to bring two bag lunches to school once each month for donation to Our Daily Bread, a meal program in Baltimore.

Sock It to Me is the name of Danny's effort to collect socks, tights, stockings and leggings for teens and young adults at The Children's Home, a residential facility for at-risk youths in Catonsville.

The 13-year-olds brainstormed ideas that would credit each of them with at least 15 hours of community service as they prepare for confirmation in February at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, which adjoins the school campus.

But here's the best part, say school officials: Neither boy regards his project as a one-time deal. Danny had already organized a similar collection in seventh grade, and Joe hopes to take his idea along with him to his first-choice high school, Calvert Hall.

"I have been really impressed with our teachers for training our students to look out for others," said Principal Mary Jo Warthen, who's in her fourth year at the school, which serves 417 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Joe said peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, fresh fruit, fruit cups, yogurt and other healthy snacks are the most-requested items from the Double Lunch Ministry.

Once he collects the 100-plus donations, Joe recruits helpers to place them into laundry hampers. He then turns the bulging bins over to parent volunteers who take them to Our Daily Bread, which is operated by Catholic Charities and serves more than a quarter-million meals to the hungry in Baltimore each year.

"It feels great to know that people are being fed, and learning to care about other people helps me to make better choices in life," said Joe, who is the son of John and Helen Hash. He also said that the church's pastor, the Rev. Christopher Whatley, "inspires me when we say our prayers before lunch."

Clients at Our Daily Bread are usually served a hot lunch and then given a bagged meal like the ones Joe collects to eat for dinner, said program manager Dennis Murphy. Peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches can also be part of the vegetarian lunch option.

"It's absolutely neat that Joe wants to keep doing this because the need for us is never-ending," Murphy said.

The Sock It to Me program started with a mundane observation. "One day I noticed my feet were cold, and I just started thinking what it would be like if I didn't have socks," said Danny, the son of Carol and Michael Sauter. From that small thought grew a large collection drive that resulted in four oversized trash bags stuffed with all varieties of hosiery.

"I just recently learned more about how to give back and not take things for granted, so it felt really good to help others," he said.

Danny placed reusable grocery bags in one classroom of each grade to collect the items and asked students during the morning announcements to support the effort. He also submitted requests for donations in the school newsletter and church bulletin.

Andre Cooper, chief executive officer of The Children's Home, said the things most people take for granted are the things residents need the most.

"Some of our kids come to us with just the clothes on their backs, and I say that not to pull anyone's heartstrings but because it's a reality," he said.

"The kids are in awe that people even think of them and are almost taken aback by people's generosity," Cooper said. "Many of these kids are angry and abusive when they arrive here, and we see a change in how they treat people because these donations warm their hearts."

Most of the residents, who are between the ages of 13 and 21, stay at the home for a year, but some have lived there for as long as four years.

"What they want more than anything is to go back to their homes, even if their families didn't take great care of them," he said. "These donations help them live a somewhat normal life with us in the meantime."

Warthen, the St. Mark School principal, said the benefits of collecting items for people in need works both ways.

"These projects open up a whole new world for our students," she said.

For information on donating to Our Daily Bread, go to or call 443-986-9000. To donate to The Children's Home, go to or call 410-744-7310.

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