Like mustard seeds, Pay it Forward projects grow

Categories: Around the Diocese

Three group projects turn $600 into $3,565 for people in need

By Nikki Rajala
The Visitor

One Pay it Forward for Lent project leader likened her group’s project to a mustard seed — starting small but multiplying.

“This Lenten project was blessed by God,” said Sarah Heidelberger. “I am amazed at the generosity of people.”

During the 40 days of Lent, three groups took grants of $200 each and grew them into a total of $3,565, which will help people in need in Sauk Centre, Kenya and Venezuela.


Alaina Anderson, a second-grader at St. John’s Area School in Foley, ties a fleece blanket for the school’s Pay it Forward project, an auction to raise money for the Diocese of Maracay, Venezuela. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

The Visitor provided the grants thanks to the generosity of local individuals who wanted to support the Pay it Forward initiative. The grant recipients and their projects were featured in the Feb. 13 issue.
Showered with generosity

A baby shower March 15 for Options for Women, a pregnancy pro-life resource center in Sauk Centre, was organized by Heidelberger and other women from the parishes of St. Bartholomew in Villard and Sacred Heart in Glenwood.

About 20 women came, some with youngsters.

“Women who couldn’t attend brought donations early,” Heidelberger said. “The children got to take gifts out of gift bags — baby toys, diapers, clothes — while we enjoyed shower games and lunch.”

The party generated $2,055 — $1,037 in items and $1,018 in cash.

“Our donation included money from the Knights of Columbus, parishioners and from other parts of the diocese,” she said. The parish contributed half of the free-will offerings it received through its annual fish dinner.

“Many people weren’t aware of the programs offered by Options for Women,” she said. “It was helpful to relay information about their resources.”

When organizers delivered the gifts and donations to Options for Women, Heidelberger said, its executive director, Colleen Cianflone, was grateful to have so many new items to fulfill needs for the summer.

Bands of friendship


Above, Lily Felling, left, and Alyssa Schwinghamer, both in fifth grade at Holy Family School in Sauk Centre, make rubber-band bracelets for their sister school, St. Joseph’s Ombo School in Migori, Kenya, as a gesture of friendship. Their Pay it Forward project also will send $1,050 to assist St. Joseph’s students with school uniforms. Photo courtesy of Holy Family School, Sauk Centre

The 183 students of Holy Family School in Sauk Centre made 810 friendship bracelets for St. Joseph’s Ombo School, their sister school in Migori, Kenya. Holy Family hopes the next delegation to Kenya will hand-deliver their bracelets.

“We want them to be excited when they open this box,” said Ginny Thomas, Holy Family’s technology coordinator.

“A third-grader,” Thomas said, “was so proud of her orange and yellow bracelet. She said, ‘This one’s going to make somebody happy!’ ”

Holy Family also received $1,050 for their sister school, Thomas said. “We sent out a letter and envelope making it easy to donate. After the story in The Visitor, we received donations from out of town.”

In addition to cash contributions, one person sent rubber-band supplies and the great-grandfather of several Holy Family students made 10 bracelet looms.

After Holy Family students discussed different needs of their sister school, Thomas said, they wanted their funds to help pay for uniforms.

“Some of our kids didn’t realize that Kenyan students needed uniforms to attend school,” she said. “They might not have good enough clothes for school.”

Blanketed in prayer

At St. John’s Area School in Foley, students tied fleece blankets, which were sold at a silent auction during its Signature Soup Fest Feb. 22. That garnered $460 for the sister Diocese of Maracay, Venezuela.

“The auction was a great success,” first-grade teacher Toni Hammond said. “Our students really got behind the idea. It brought parents, relatives, neighbors and friends. Some bids were as high as $75 — all the blanket winners were pleased.”

The school’s Lenten committee generated ideas for the project, Hammond said. Then she matched fabric themes with something important to that grade level — like animals, activities or curriculum.

To involve all 110 students from pre-kindergarten through grade six, classes prayed the rosary or other prayers with their teacher while two volunteers sat with a small group which took turns tying.

“In prayer, students thought about the people who would receive the blankets and the people who would monetarily benefit from the project,” she said. “We talked about the needs in Maracay. My class found where Venezuela is on the globe. And we talked about other people in need.”

She purchased items to offer as a “basket” at the auction — books, toys, activities, popcorn and movies.

Principal Christine Friederichs said the school has already sent the majority of the funds through the St. Cloud Mission Office.

“The people in Maracay are going though hardships now,” Friederichs said. “We feel it is best that they decide where their biggest need is and use the money at their discretion.”

Pay it Forward also challenged households across the diocese to “pay it forward” before it officially began. In January, two anonymous donors sent checks as their personal gift to the initiative. One family has been inspired by the unique ways groups assist charities. Another person said that offering a donation was how her household could participate in the diverse projects.