Canton school's generosity will help 94 children and their families have a blessed Christmas

CANTON — Annually before Christmas, All Saints Catholic School in Canton hosts one of its largest school-wide charitable collection efforts — its Advent giving tree project. 

This year, All Saints donated more than 600 wrapped presents so 94 children, teens, and young adults can have a joyous Christmas.

"My initial reaction was, 'wow,'' said Kristie Hardin, assistant director of child welfare at Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, which partnered with the school on the project. “In the nine years that I have been working for CCSEM, I cannot recall a U-Haul ever pulling up, filled with Christmas presents for our youths. I am humbled and grateful for the response that All Saints Catholic School has shown toward our foster and independent living youths.”

All Saints, which has 530 students in preschool through eighth grade, coordinates with its families and Catholic Charities to provide specific gifts bound for young people on Christmas morning. 

This year, the students and their families purchased items for young people in Catholic Charities' foster care, adoption, and independent living program.

All Saints students unload a U-Haul with gifts for children in Catholic Charities' foster care program Dec. 12. Left to right are Lindsay Hermann, Rylee Pankow, assistant principal Scott Wisniewski, Jake Dickie, junior high religion teacher Amy Roose (in the U-Haul), Isabelle Ahme and Maddie Raetz.

The school also highlights a virtue each month through its Virtues in Practice program. The virtue for the month of December is generosity.

“With our focus on generosity this month, partnering with the foster care, adoption, and independent living program for our Advent giving tree project led to great conversations in the classroom,” All Saints junior high religion teacher Amy Roose said. “Generosity, or giving without counting the cost, is a virtue we want our students to model every day.”

“This donation means a lot to our agency,” Hardin added. “By taking the full number of children we have through the agency, I can ensure that every child gets at least a couple of gifts, if not more. This donation was simply amazing.”

The All Saints Advent giving tree project begins on Nov. 1, in conjunction with the school's celebration of All Saints Day — the school feast day. Teachers and staff members on the school's Catholic Identity Committee organize sign-ups where families commit to purchasing gifts for children assigned to the program.

All Saints traditionally focuses its charitable efforts on helping young people in the community. In addition to making a difference in the lives of those in need, the school hopes students can more easily relate to the people they are helping if they are in the same age group.

“We were able to make great connections to the gifts coming in and specifically who it would benefit,” Roose said. “The conversations that came up in my classroom led to a greater awareness of foster care and adoption.”

Amy Roose and Barb Zahari, teachers and members of All Saints School's Catholic Identity Committee, wrap gifts at Catholic Charities' Southfield offices bound for children, teens and young adults in the nonprofit's foster care, adoption and independent living programs.

The school's purchasing and collection efforts continued through Thanksgiving weekend. By Dec. 12, the gifts were wrapped and ready to be delivered. In addition to adult representatives from All Saints, a parent volunteer and junior high members of the All Saints Student Council and National Junior Honor Society delivered the presents to Catholic Charities' Southfield offices and unloaded the truck.

“My heart was truly touched by what we did today,” All Saints eighth grader Jake Dickie said. “It has made me realize how many kids are in need of a home and basic necessities. The fact that we were able to help just a small part of the success in providing Christmas for them is a big win in my heart.”

Isabelle Ahme, also in eighth grade, added the experience “opened my eyes in a new way.” 

“Thinking of how this organization is helping kids who could have easily been left without people to care for them is incredible; what these people are doing is amazing, and I was absolutely blown away,” she said.

Hardin noted Catholic Charities is always in need of foster parents — individuals and families who are willing to open their homes and hearts to a child in need.

Michele Santillan is director of advancement and marketing for All Saints Catholic School in Canton.