When Campus Ministry Collections Team member Cecilia Garcia-Velez, DSHA ’20, arrived at DSHA first at 6:30 a.m., she went up to the Campus Ministry Center to retrieve the cart with everything needed for the collection day — a clipboard to count the number of items given, wristbands to mark students who brought in a can and were therefore permitted to be out-of-uniform, and plastic bags in which to put the cans.
“I walked through the chapel and stopped to pray,” Garcia-Velez said. “I thanked God for all the amazing girls who were about to bring in food for people in need.”
In the 2019–2020 school year, the student body donated 6,297 canned goods to the Mother of Good Counsel food pantry. While giving a canned good is an individual act, the collections team has seen it build community in the halls of DSHA.
Grabbing a canned good from their pantries or purchasing one at the grocery store is something most students can swing. Collection day is not something in which only certain students participate; almost everyone brings in can or two — or a bag full.
“Once you see the number of girls that are bringing in canned goods and are out of uniform on collection day, you notice that (almost) everyone comes together in giving,” Garcia-Velez said. “You get to see everyone help someone by committing to donating. You really feel a part of the community when you give to collections — you are one of many helping the greater community.”
With the academic rigor of DSHA and the countless other activities in which students are involved, it is possible for a student to forget about collection day and come in uniform. According to Kierra Pruitt, DSHA ’20, a member of the collections team, students place more importance on helping others rather than the chance to dress down.
“Some students forget to dress down, but still donate a dollar to the pantry,” she said. “They want to help in any way they can, whether or not they are out-of-uniform.”
The way Dashers unite in giving shows Pruitt “that everyone can come together for a cause. My classmates are really caring and selfless, and service to others is a big part of our community.”
SMALL ACTS GO A LONG WAY
While the collections team works hard before school to gather items on collection days, many of the members do not get to see the difference they make at the Mother of Good Counsel food pantry, where all goods are taken during students’ first hour classes.
“On the collections team, we do service in a sense without seeing the impact,” Garcia-Velez said. “Not seeing the impact was difficult for me at first. I can bring in a can, but I don’t see how my contribution matters. But if you think about it on a deeper level, our small donations are really going to help someone.”
And grabbing a can from the pantry at home or visiting the grocery store before heading off to school is an accessible way to help someone less fortunate. Pruitt said there are always extra cans in her pantry that her family might not use, and it means more giving it to someone who “actually needs it.”
“Giving is a small act that goes a long way for another person,” said Garcia-Velez. “One can might not mean a lot to my family, but it does for another family.”
During the last semester of her time on the collections team, Pruitt had a first-hour study hall. She used her free period to go to the food pantry to deliver the goods with then Director of Salvatorian Service Stephanie Monson, currently the Director of Campus Ministry as of fall 2020.
“Seeing who we were giving the canned goods to was really important to me,” Pruitt said. “People are on a waiting list for food from the (Mother of Good Counsel) pantry. For some people, this is their main source of food.”
In fact, while DSHA helps to pack the food pantry, some months students are not in school on the 5th, 15th, and 25th. When that happens, said Garcia-Velez, the pantry has less food than normal to share with the greater community. Therefore, the collections team encourages students to bring in more than one or two cans on the collection day before the missed opportunity.
“We know in Milwaukee there are many who rely on food pantries,” Pruitt said. “It’s a prominent issue in our community, and we see it in our city. Any good thing we do helps combat the issue. Even one more item makes a big difference.”
CANS AND CATHOLICISM
Donating a can or two to the food pantry might be a small act, but both Pruitt and Garcia-Velez have grown significantly in their faith life by being a part of the collections team.
The collections team always gathers to pray in the Campus Ministry Center for a successful donation day before greeting students at the door and collecting canned goods.
For Pruitt, the collections team helped her achieve her goal of participating in long-term service. Because of her time on the collections team, she hopes to continue to engage in community service regularly at Marquette University, where she is a freshman this year.
According to Garcia-Velez, her faith played a huge part in her time on the team, even though she may not have realized it at the time.
“It’s all about thinking of giving back to others and treating others how you would want to be treated,” she said. “Small acts of kindness are the highlight of Jesus’ mission. In every girl that helped, every collections team member, and in Mrs. Monson, I saw God.”
Monson said that the whole community grows in the service aspect of their faith when greeted by a member of the collections team.
“Jesus looked people in the eye and served them. We want our girls to understand that, not just put a canned good in a bag,” she said. “Service is about being with other people. When giving, girls must look the collections team member in the eye, and they become a part of the actual giving.
“Faith and service should not be hands off; it should be about building community.”