La Grange students spread holiday cheer through service
St. Francis Xavier first graders sing holiday carols at Bethlehem Woods Retirement Center December 7, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 27, 2012 5:58PM
LAGRANGE PARK —First- through eighth-graders from the St. Francis Xavier School fanned out throughout the western suburbs and into Chicago Dec. 7 for a variety of service projects inspired by the school’s namesake, a 16th century Jesuit missionary to Asia.
At the Bethlehem Woods Retirement Community in LaGrange Park, first-graders sang carols, played picture bingo and enjoyed cookies and punch with seniors.
“I love ‘em,” said Martha Nausieda, 96. “Their singing was fantastic.”
Nausieda showed off a cozy gray fleece blanket her young friends helped her win playing bingo.
“We tied the knots,” explained first-grader Quinn Filbin about his class’s project to make the blankets as prizes. “It was fun and nice to give them as gifts.”
Marge Whitlock, 84, said she, too, thoroughly enjoyed the energetic visitors.
“It’s wonderful. They’re so uplifting,” Whitlock said. “They just make you feel like Christmas. We need that.”
When asked what she thought about visiting the seniors, first-grader Jaclyn Cummings said, “We made all the people happy. That felt good.”
And that’s the idea behind the all-school service program, which has a different yearlong focus for each grade level, explained Katie Filbin. She developed the program with two other moms, Mary Freeman and Elizabeth Fisher.
“We have over 15 buses, more than 150 parent volunteers and about 600 students out this morning,” Filbin said. “We’re so fortunate, and that’s what we try and instill in our kids, to carry out the tradition of St. Francis Xavier.”
In addition, second-graders made Christmas cards and decorated ornaments for clients of the School on Wheels bus tutoring program, run by the Congregation of St. Joseph sisters in LaGrange Park.. Third-graders collected more than 900 coats, hats, mittens and scarves for the Marillac House in Chicago.
Fourth-graders, seventh-graders and eighth-graders packed meals or sorted food for the hungry at Feed My Starving Children and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Fifth-graders hosted a bowling party for adults with special needs.
Preschoolers and kindergartners made eco-friendly ornaments and decorated Christmas trees.
“It’s been a gift doing this today, and hopefully it’s a gift to other,” Filbin said.
Jim Docherty, 91, also enjoyed visiting with the first-graders and their parents.
“These kids are so lucky they have parents who will teach them and do this for them,” he said.