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EAST BRADFORD — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day may be on Monday, but Hillsdale Elementary School students had their day of service on Dr. King’s actual birthday on Friday.
The school, holding its first day of service within its walls, saw roughly 30 kids stay after school to help sort and pair shoes or put together breakfast bags.
“As a parent of four, I wanted to get our schools involved in some kind of community service for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because it’s a national day of service,” said Kelly Catania, who helped organize the service at Hillsdale. “Teaching our kids at this young age is where it begins.”
Catania has been involved in the service at St. Agnes Church in West Chester in the past and it’s where she came up with the idea to bring it to Hillsdale.
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“We’ve been doing it at St. Agnes Church for years and it has been such a tremendous amount of children that want to get involved, so this is just like and off-shoot of that,” she said. “For the first time, we didn’t know if 10 kids would come or whatever. This is such a great opportunity for them just to look at each other and see they can other way they can give back as well.”
Through the families and faculty at Hillsdale, gently-worn shoes and breakfast foods were donated for the students to sort through to go to two different organizations.
“I’ve been working at Safe Harbor for a long time, so I thought that was just a natural fit and the kids love doing these breakfast bags,” Catania said. “As far as Soles4Souls, the organization is very well run. All kids can get involved in it and they can tell their friends and tell their families how to run a shoe drive. Everybody has shoes in their homes. It’s an easy way for kids to give back.”
Soles4Souls is a nonprofit which collects and distributes shoes and clothing and believes everyone around the world “deserves a good pair of shoes.”
Safe Harbor, in West Chester, is a homeless shelter that has been around for 20 years, providing a safe, warm place for people to come for both men and women.
Next year, Catania hopes to expand the service work to include an additional two organizations — one on an international level and another local.
“I think next year, we’ll add into Operation Smile, which is an international organization that works with children in third-world countries with cleft lips and palates and then maybe another local organization, perhaps Chester County Family Academy, which is a local school that is always looking for help,” she said.
Either way, every little bit of service to somewhere can make all the difference in the world to one or hundreds of people and it’s a lesson Catania feels children should learn at a young age.
“Even little gifts and little acts of kindness can add up to them learning how to give back when they’re older,” she said. “This is just a starting point and hopefully each year we’ll grow.”