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Jan 17, 2014 | Anne Marie Becka

St. Stephen's Faculty & Staff Celebrate Day of Service and Gratitude

On January 6, the faculty and staff of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, participated in a day of service by volunteering at a wide variety of organizations across Austin. From sorting thousands of pounds of food donations, spreading more than 24 cubic yards of mulch, creating art projects for youth and preparing hot meals for homeless people in the community, more than 100 St. Stephen’s faculty and staff lived into the school’s mission of serving others.

 

Ten members of the St. Stephen’s community traveled to Caritas, which assists Austin families affected by poverty and homelessness. “Our tasks for the day included preparing food, serving lunch and cleaning up after a meal for 350 homeless men and women,” said the Rev. Todd FitzGerald, St. Stephen’s chaplain. “The Caritas staff of three ‘wing it’ every day with whatever donated food they have, and whoever shows up to volunteer. They were pros at guiding us through the kitchen and at preparing a meal for so many hungry members of the Austin community.”

 

(l to r): Assisting at Caritas (top row) Chris Breckwoldt ’86,
the Rev. Todd FitzGerald, Jonah O’Hara, Gene Phillips and Kendra Lipman;
(bottom row) Christine Aubrey, Yvonne Adams and Kathi Murphy

 

Ten other St. Stephen’s faculty and staff volunteered at Casa Marianella, which provides emergency and transitional shelters for immigrants, as well as a community education center. According to Lay Chaplain Jim Crosby, the day of service raised their awareness of this underserved group in our community. “The refugees at Casa Marianella have evolved through the years from being strictly from Central America; there are now significant numbers from African countries, even Nepal.”

 

Throughout the day, Crosby and his team painted the food pantry, washed multiple loads of laundry, helped prepare for an Epiphany service, cleared out recycling and trash, and prepared lunch for residents and staff. “Everyone really enjoyed the many work projects and our new acquaintances,” he said.

 

Volunteers working at Safe Place, a resource center for victims of sexual and domestic violence, spent the day sorting donations, including diapers, children’s toys, school supplies, books and toiletries. “The warehouse was filled with boxes and bags of donations,” explained Elizabeth Hansing Moon, director of fine arts at St. Stephen’s. “We used our time to get them as organized as possible so that clients can access what they need.”

 

Kathy Coe, dean of 9th and 10th grade students, was one of seven volunteers who braved an unexpected cold front and 16 degree weather to work at Down Home Ranch in Elgin. A working farm and ranch, Down Home Ranch is home to approximately 40 adults and children with Down syndrome and other disabilities. “We spent the morning spreading mulch and then spent some time in the afternoon cleaning out the greenhouse so they could lay down new flooring,” she explained.

 

(l to r): Kim Meyer, Alix Lacelarie, Robert Lewis, Wallis Goodman, Missie
Thorpe and Jeremy Sweetlamb in the greenhouse at Down Home Ranch

 

In addition to tackling some much-needed chores on our own campus, St. Stephen’s faculty and staff also volunteered at these organizations: Breakthrough Austin, which addresses low-income students’ unique academic needs and personal circumstances as they work to become the first in their families to go to college; Capital Area Food Bank, which distributes food and grocery products throughout Central Texas; Creative Action, a local organization that support the academic, social and emotional development of young people; Lifeworks, an affordable housing complex for low income families in Austin; Mary House, which offers free medically supportive housing to homeless, indigent adults with critical or terminal illnesses; and Texas Memorial Museum, a division of the Texas Natural Science Center that helps create awareness, understanding and appreciation of biological diversity in Texas.

 

Although the service projects varied greatly, volunteers’ collective feelings about the day were of great excitement and gratitude. “Despite the intensity of the work, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to work together and to learn so much about, and from, the people and organizations we served,” FitzGerald said.

 

Head of School Bob Kirkpatrick concurred. “The day produced an array of positive comments and impressions — from the volunteers who participated to the organizations we served whose staff expressed their appreciation,” he concluded. “On so many levels, this day did great good and is something we will certainly repeat, as we practice for ourselves and model for our students one of our core school values — service.”

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