St. Ambrose students use treats to learn importance of giving


A lesson on giving of their time, talents and treasures quickly was put into action by young St. Ambrose Catholic School students.

The 56 kindergartners and first-, second- and third-graders went through one line to place a pair of gloves, a pair of socks, snacks and a small bottle of water into gallon-size Ziploc bags.

Then they went through another line to place toiletries into sandwich bags.

The small bags were put into the large ones along with a handwritten message on a notecard, including “I am praying for you” or “God bless you” along with “St. Ambrose” and a heart.

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Tonja Couch, executive director of Jackson County United Way, then told the kindergartners and first-graders to leave their Blessing Bags at the door to place in the Seymour church’s parish office.

“When people come to our church and ask for help, they are going to give them away at the parish office,” Couch told the students.

The second- and third-graders took their Blessing Bags home. Accompanied by their parents, they will find someone in need and give them a bag.

“It is your responsibility to your community to help that person because you’re going to give them a little bit of time, a little bit of your talent in filling that bag and a whole great big gallon-size baggie of treasures,” Couch said.

Her visit was a part of the school’s annual service day during National Catholic Schools Week.

On Wednesday, fourth- through seventh-graders either went to Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Community Provisions of Jackson County, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Food Pantry or the Jackson County Clothing Center in Seymour. The eighth-graders, meanwhile, traveled to Indianapolis for an archdiocese Mass and to visit the Ronald McDonald House.

Angie Craig, a second-grade teacher at St. Ambrose, said she saw several Facebook posts about other local teachers doing the Blessing Bags and thought it would be the perfect thing for the students to do.

She contacted Couch, a former student of hers, and her class helped separate the items so they could easily be put into the bags.

Before putting the Blessing Bags together, Couch had the students sit in a circle in the middle of the gymnasium, and she talked to them about community.

She placed a mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in front of each of the students, but she ran out when she got to the last three kids, representing an empty community.

Couch was glad to see other students offer their piece of candy to those who didn’t have one, representing a sharing community.

After putting all of the candy back into a bowl, Couch talked about what people in a community need to give — time, talents and treasures.

Time was represented by Now and Later candies, while they got a Starburst for talent and either a 100 Grand or a PayDay for treasure.

Couch said people have different amounts of treasures.

“Some people in our community work really, really, really hard, and they may be a doctor or a lawyer or they may run a big business and they get paid a lot of money,” Couch said while holding up a 100 Grand bar. “That’s lots of money. They have money to give.”

There also are hardworking people, like teachers, nurses and factory workers, who earn different amounts of money. They are represented by PayDay bars.

“It doesn’t matter if you give a penny or you give a $100 bill,” Couch said. “That’s giving of your treasure.”

Couch also asked the students what types of talents they have. Answers included gymnastics, dancing, drawing, painting, playing baseball and building with Legos. A couple of students humored the group by saying sleeping or eating was their talent.

“Talent is something you can give because you are really passionate about it,” Couch said. “Passion is in your heart, so talents are easy to give away.”

Finally, Couch went around with a large container to pick up the students’ candy. They could either give a little bit of their candy or all of their candy. Even though some reluctantly did so, all of the kids gave up all of their candy.

Couch then dumped all of the candy into a smaller bowl, and it overflowed. She said that happened because the students gave their time, talents and treasures.

Much to the students’ delight, she let them take back two pieces of candy to keep. That way, in the end, there would be some left over to share.

Transitioning to the service project, Couch talked to the students about volunteer opportunities in hopes that they will want to do more beyond putting the Blessing Bags together.

St. Ambrose’s St. Vincent de Paul Society organization donated the socks and gloves for the project, while the other items came from parents and people in the community.

As a token of appreciation for helping with the Blessing Bags, Couch gave each student a United Way pencil.

“You have given a little more than an hour of your time today to help our community, and I am very, very grateful for that,” she said.

Second-graders Hector Salvador and Gabby Cornn said they are excited to give away their Blessing Bags.

Hector said he plans to give it to someone close to where he lives.

“I hope they have a better life, and then you can be respectful and happy,” he said.

Gabby said she is going to ride around with her parents to find someone in need.

“I would just stop right there with the first one I saw and grab my parents and hand it to the poor and say, ‘This is for you,'” she said. “I would just like to see their happy face. I would just be proud of myself for doing something good for someone else.”

Craig said the service day was a good reminder to think of others.

“Not everyone is created equal as far as income and everything, so anything we can do to help, that’s a big part of our religious program is explaining to them how we just go out and help others in any way we can,” she said.

Instilling that at an early age is important, she said.

“They have a lot of empathy for other people,” Craig said. “Right away, how many of them said, ‘You can have my candy.’ You wouldn’t see that in every group of kids that age.”

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Anyone interested in doing a Blessing Bag project, donating to the cause or finding other ways to volunteer may contact Tonja Couch, executive director of Jackson County United Way, at 812-522-5450 or [email protected].


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