Bishop Foley lends a helping hand across Metro Detroit

By: Andy Kozlowski, | Madison - Park News | Published April 27, 2012

MADISON HEIGHTS — Whether it’s an animal shelter or a thrift store for the poor, many nonprofits practically run on air. With finances tight, it’s hard to hire staff that can take care of the day-to-day tasks that come with running an organization. And when they get bogged down in menial work, they become distracted from their mission.

Looking to ease the burden, around 450 students, staff and parent volunteers from Bishop Foley Catholic High fanned out across a dozen cities in the tri-county area on Friday, April 20, donating a combined 3,200 hours of labor at roughly 25 agencies.

It was all part of the school’s third annual Be the Difference Day, organized by a committee of about 50 students and staff members across all four grades. The day began with a hearty breakfast and prayer service, and then the students split off into predetermined groups for at least six hours of community service.

 Outside of the health care center, senior Sean Reaume and freshman Nick Sly worked together to clean up the parking lot.

Outside of the health care center, senior Sean Reaume and freshman Nick Sly worked together to clean up the parking lot.

Photo by David Schreiber

One group stopped at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit, where students cleaned the grounds and maintained the gardens. Another went to Mary’s Mantle in Southfield, a home for pregnant women in need of assistance, where some did lawn maintenance and others sorted infant essentials like diapers.

Three groups went to St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores — one in Waterford, one in Utica and another in Clinton Township — and helped organize the donated clothing. Another group went to a Salvation Army site in Detroit to prepare sandwiches for the needy as part of the Bed and Bread program.

Groups visited the Gleaners Food Banks in Warren and Pontiac, where there was much heavy lifting to be done, rearranging boxed goods. Students also felt the burn at the Church of the Master in Warren, part of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers network, where they did extensive landscaping work.

“It was one of those groups where at the end of the day they came back and looked like they had been working for six straight hours,” said Tim McCormick, event coordinator and campus minister and theology teacher at Bishop Foley. “And you could see what they had done, all of the planting and rocks moved — a lot of hard work and manual labor.”

And those were just a few of the agencies helped. One of the most requested charities among students was the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan in Madison Heights, where about 18 students made a difference by walking the dogs, cleaning the cages and spending time with the animals in need.

“The kids loved it — they all came back with big smiles,” McCormick laughed. “Some even wanted to adopt!”

Mackenzie Kaiser, a senior, volunteered at the South Oakland YMCA in Royal Oak. Half of her group worked outside moving big mounds of dirt. She was with the half that stayed inside, getting the place straightened out. She toiled upstairs, organizing closets full of books for the summer camp program and crafts for the kids, “all glitter and fabrics and googly eyes,” while fellow students sorted stuff in the basement. Those with allergies were warned to stay away due to the dust swirling about.

There was much to do, and a lot of energy to get it done.

“There was definitely a lot of excitement,” Kaiser said. “In the beginning, we don’t really know what to expect, but people are so excited when you get there. They’re like, ‘Wow, you don’t want anything in return?’ And they try to offer it sometimes, but we’re like, ‘No, we’re here for you.’ It’s rewarding, and you can feel the excitement around the school: ‘Oh, Be the Difference Day is on Friday! Sweet!’”

Patrick Lass, a junior, volunteered at Cambridge East Healthcare Center in Madison Heights, stocking shelves, washing windows and spending time with the seniors, sharing stories and entertaining. He was the student leader of his group and agreed that students were pumped to head out and do good work.

“We hope to set an example for all of the other schools in the area,” Lass said. “It would be great to see them pick it up as well, to show everyone that this generation of teenagers and high schoolers are really a generation of good character people.”

Bishop Foley Catholic High School is located at 32000 Campbell Road in Madison Heights and can be reached at (248) 585-1210 or by visiting www.bishopfoley.org.