The front-line staff at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center in Camp Hill received a well-deserved morale boost in time for Christmas, thanks to the generous efforts of students and staff at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg.
Christian Charity Sisters Mary Joseph Albright, Vice President of Mission Integration at the hospital, and Carol Schuyler, social studies teacher at the high school, live in the convent at the medical center. They recognized that the staff could benefit from a pre-holiday pick-me-up.
“Care for the patients is uppermost in the mind and heart of administration, physicians and employees throughout Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center. Our hospital staff strives to provide the best care to every patient, every day. The COVID pandemic has stressed them physically, spiritually and emotionally, though they continue to deliver care heroically,” said Sister Mary Joseph.
She and Sister Carol turned to Bishop McDevitt’s Christian Service Club and Student Council for help. The end result: 200 goodie bags filled with snacks and cards of encouragement and appreciation for hospital employees.
It was a remarkable collection, considering that the clubs had just one day to produce 200 handwritten cards and collect money to purchase the snacks – the school community donated $300.
The project was initially planned as a weeklong collection, but the efforts were shortened to one day as the school turned to temporary distance-learning shortly before Christmas.
Club leaders sprang into action on Friday, Dec. 11, with students collecting monetary donations during homeroom and gathering fellow classmates to sign freshly-printed cards during lunch.
“I am very thankful to the members of the student body who stepped up to help with this project on such short notice,” said Christian Service Club president, Megan Waning.
“Many of the students wanted to write more than one card, and they were all very eager to step up and help brighten the lives of the front-line workers,” she noted. “Many teachers even stopped by to write cards, and it was exciting to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction of the student body to this project.”
Ann Carbon, moderator of the Christian Service Club, said she was “impressed with the students and their willingness to contribute, especially since we had one day to get everything together.”
“I can’t think of a better project for us to do right now than to thank our healthcare workers,” she said.
Carbon and Jen Delp, Student Council moderator, purchased the individual snacks, including granola bars, fruit packs, chocolate, chips, peanuts and protein bars. Teachers and staff who were in the school building during the temporary remote learning days volunteered to pack the snacks into bags for individual workers.
Carbon, Delp and Sister Tracey Uphoff, IHM, co-moderator of the Christian Service Club, loaded the bags into Carbon’s car and delivered them to the medical center.
Sister Mary Joseph and another employee distributed the treats to the various units and teams providing care to COVID patients. Recipients included physicians, nurses, pastoral care chaplains, palliative care providers and social workers.
“It was a thrill to see the joy that the goodie bags and thank-you messages provided to those who received them,” Sister Mary Joseph said. “Everyone was truly grateful to be remembered by the community. Our senior leadership administrators were likewise grateful that Bishop McDevitt High School acknowledged in such a thoughtful and practical way our Catholic hospital for their exemplary service to patients of the community.”
“We have such beautiful, dedicated employees and we were so grateful that they received acknowledgement for the care they provided to patients. For our administration team, that was the best gift ever, a wonderful Christmas present,” Sister Mary Joseph remarked.
Students also found reward in giving.
“I felt it was super crucial to spread cheer with the front-line workers because 2020 was a rough year for most of the world, especially our front-line workers, so I knew the least I could do was donate and write positive messages to let them know that we appreciated them more than they’ll ever know,” said Christian Service Club member Vivian Lam, a junior.
“I was very proud of our McD family for really showing what the true spirit of giving and what Bishop McDevitt represents,” she added. “I knew that even with the little time we had to get everything done, we could count on the wonderful students. I’m very privileged and proud to be a student at Bishop McDevitt because we always get to do fun, but thoughtful, activities like this and make a difference in the community.”
Ynhu Tran, also a junior, said, “I feel that it is so important to share cheer with the front-line workers because of their hard work and passion to put their lives at risk to help the lives of others. Especially in the time of COVID, with the high risks they could receive, they are working endless hours with caring hands and hearts. The littlest possible thing we could do is to show our gratitude, cheer and prayers to them.”
“I am not surprised that our McDevitt family could sign 200 cards in a day because I know at McDevitt we are taught to always help others in our faith and family, and to strive for excellence,” Ynhu added.
Students of Service
The Christian Service Club has nearly 100 student members.
Typically, the students volunteer at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank; the Breakfast with Santa event at Holy Name of Jesus and the Oktoberfest gathering at St. Catherine Labouré, both in Harrisburg; Lower Paxton Township’s Easter egg hunt; and the United Way’s Day of Caring.
Due to the pandemic, they weren’t able to participate in those efforts this year, Carbon said, but they have been able to help in other ways. They’ve given hours at the Manna Food Pantry in Penbrook through its distanced food distribution; assembled word search and crossword puzzle print-outs into decorative packets for seniors at two assisted-living centers; and assisted with cleaning requirements and Christmas tree decorations at the school.
“The Christian Service Club’s mission statement is based on Matthew 25. Through our activities we strive to live the teaching of Jesus that ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,’” Carbon said. “The activities of the CSC also reflect the mission of Bishop McDevitt High School, to ‘graduate well-rounded Christian men and women committed to living moral lives of holiness, integrity, justice, and responsible citizenship.’”
Megan and Ynhu said they’re involved in the club and its activities because of their passion for serving others.
“My favorite part about helping others is the joy on the faces of those whom I have helped when their lives have been impacted greatly by our service,” Megan said. “I love seeing how my small acts of kindness can have great impacts on those around me, and I have found myself dedicated to creating more good in the world.”
“I love to help others in our own community, right here in Harrisburg,” Ynhu said. All in all, CSC is not just another extracurricular activity but a way you can help others and use the hands and heart that God has given you to provide for others in physical and spiritual ways.”
(Learn more about Bishop McDevitt High School at www.bishopmcdevitt.org.)
(Photos courtesy of Erin Davis, Director of Advancement, Bishop McDevitt High School.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness