Sense of community thrives at St. Francis
Coming together to build a sense of community through service and dedication to church and school takes a multitude of volunteers at St. Francis, from the oldest to the youngest.
“It’s a small school and very family oriented,” said parent Julie Mootz, co-president of the Home and School Committee. “It takes all of us to do the service projects. It takes all of us to make it work.”
Fundraisers such as the annual Christmas Bazaar brings together dozens of volunteers from the church and school to make it happen. The bazaar held on the second Saturday and Sunday in November raises more than $8,000 for the school each year.
“The Christmas Bazaar is a long standing tradition at St. Francis that is very successful,” Mootz said. “It’s amazing the tables and tables full of donated items. It’s great to come to an event like that and see the community effort from the church and school.”
The bazaar features a candy and cookie sale, luncheon, craft fair, popcorn sale and basket raffle. A majority of the items sold are donated by students, parents, faculty and parishioners.
Planning for the event is a year long process with volunteers needed to serve in the kitchen, help with set up and take down and work in the various booths.
“It’s a sense of community with everyone coming together to improve your church and school,” Mootz said. “Everything just works better when we get the extended families into school. We enjoy it when the grandparents come in and volunteer as well.”
Grandparent Betty Weix of Merrill had 10 children attend St. Francis and currently has two grandchildren enrolled in the school. She has spent countless hours volunteering at the church and school and still makes fudge and other candy for the bazaar, helps with the luncheon and finds time to help in the church’s soup kitchen each week.
“It’s a great way to get to know people that belong to our church and you get to know their children,” Weix said. “It’s an example to our children. Hopefully they will grow up and participate with the church. It’s following by example. That’s an important part of life.”
Weix, a lifelong member of the church, is a former president of the Home and School organization and has served on numerous committees with the church and school throughout the years.
“I think it is important having God as your center and learning how to treat others,” she said. “Hopefully the children will take that with them as they grow up.”
The Home and School Committee plans a series of other fundraisers and service projects throughout the year including making May Day baskets for the neighbors of the church and school, hosting a fall clean up day, a bowl-a-thon and sponsoring the Doughnuts with Dad, Muffins with Mom socials for students and families.
Kelly Morgan and her two sons participated in a leaf raking project last fall to help out the elderly in the parish. The family enjoys helping out at St. Francis whenever they can, whether it’s decorating a tree to brighten the hallway or writing special thank you notes to faculty and staff.
“St. Francis is a place where our students can learn the value of community,” she said. “We are all part of this community. I want my sons to take pride in our school.”
Last year the school formed the Minnie Vinnies, a service organization for middle school students, to help those in need. In partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Society the group of more than 20 students meets monthly to plan service projects, fundraisers and other special activities.
“It’s a great group of kids to work with,” said advisor Tammy Cohrs. “They learn about giving of themselves at a young age.”
The Minnie Vinnies have collected money for missions, purchased gifts for the Sharing Christmas Spirit Appeal, made blankets for the Baby Shower for Life organization, provided care packages for soldiers and visited the residents of Bell Tower, among other projects.
“Everyone that joined is really happy about it,” said student Gwen Wheat. “Last year we got to take trips to Bell Tower to give them cards and to the food pantry to see how everything works. I like how we learn about people in need and help out and make a lot of people feel good.”