Bishop Foley helps 2,000 during ‘12 Days of Christmas’

Students reach out to the homeless, seniors, soldiers and more

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 20, 2012

 The school’s music instructor, Rebecca Roberts, left, rehearses the night’s Christmas concert with holiday choir members Emily Tarchala, Rose Cyburt and Abby Larencelle, all freshmen.

The school’s music instructor, Rebecca Roberts, left, rehearses the night’s Christmas concert with holiday choir members Emily Tarchala, Rose Cyburt and Abby Larencelle, all freshmen.

Photo by David Schreiber

MADISON HEIGHTS — The cafetorium at Bishop Foley Catholic High School was a sea of red and green Dec. 11, the air filled with the sounds of caroling and the scent of spice cookies fresh out of the oven, as around 300 students toiled away like Santa’s elves on projects that would touch the lives of some 2,000 people this holiday season.  

Those who were dressed casually in red or green paid a couple bucks each for the privilege to do so, and the money raised was used to purchase the materials needed for the 12 community service projects done that day. All of the service projects were completed in the span of a couple hours and within the walls of the school, but ultimately reached children separated from their families, seniors living alone, the homeless in soup kitchens, and even soldiers spending Christmas overseas. A projector displayed images on a screen of the kinds of people they would be helping.

Named “The 12 Days of Christmas,” in reference to the Christmas carol, Bishop Foley’s latest foray into community service was dreamed up in a matter of mere weeks by Father Gerard LeBoeuf, school president, and serves as a year-end extension of Bishop Foley’s “Be the Difference Day” in April, which sees the students fanning out across the Metro Detroit area each year to volunteer en masse.

“I just thought of this a couple weeks ago,” LeBoeuf said. “Let’s do something different for the holiday, take the focus off what I want for Christmas, what will I get for Christmas, and let’s look at the needs of other people, the homeless who have nothing, the soldiers who are serving overseas.”

Each of the 12 projects had its own table, about 25 students working on each at once, and then switching off at designated points, so that each worked on three projects, although the students didn’t know which projects they would work on until they arrived.

Meanwhile, in an open kitchen nearby, the school’s culinary club served up freshly baked spice cookies, warm cider and hot chocolate, while up on the cafetorium stage, students prepped for the Christmas concert that would take place that evening.

The 12 projects were as follows:

1) Candy canes and note cards: These were arranged for children at Holy Family Child Services campuses across Metro Detroit, where foster children who have been removed from their families are placed until the situation stabilizes.

2) Personal-care packages for the homeless: Toiletry bundles, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs and lip balm were assembled for distribution at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, where guests coming through the kitchen line could pick them up. 

3) Cards for veterans: The students made personalized Christmas cards for veterans at a VA hospital in Detroit.

4) Cards for kids: The students also made personalized Christmas cards for children who will be spending their Christmas at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, whether it’s due to injury or illness, such as cancer.

5) Luminaries: These wax-coated, sand-filled bags, decorated on the outside with candles on the inside, were made to light the path outside Guardian Angels School, as people arrive for Christmas services.

6) Ornaments: Students made ornaments for the Christmas tree onstage at Bishop Foley’s Christmas concert that night.

7) Wrapped boxes for seniors: Consisting of wrapped boxes with a poem attached to each, these were made for the senior residents at one of the Cambridge facilities in Bishop Foley’s coverage area. The students were telling the seniors they’re in their thoughts.

8) Hero cards: With spiritual imagery on one side, and a personalized message on the other, these cards were made by the students for servicemen and women on active duty away from home for the holidays.

9) Placemats for senior centers: Also aimed at the Cambridge facility, as well as American House, the students illustrated these placemats to help brighten up meals around the holidays.

10) Spiritual flowers: Students went into the school’s newly refurbished chapel, dedicated just two months ago, and said prayers for specific seniors, and then wrote a card telling the senior the prayers they said, attaching the prayer cards to silk poinsettias that will be delivered to the seniors.

11) PEACE quilt: Serving as a conscious reminder to practice peace in word, thought and deed, this quilt was assembled from individual squares made by students, and was to be displayed in a school stairwell.

12) Faith cards: Aimed at senior priests in the Archidiocese of Detroit, these cards share Christmas cheer with retired clergymen who no longer celebrate Christmas with a church community, since they are now in senior centers or being cared for.

Amy Uebbing, the school’s director of admissions, beamed with pride as the kids bustled about settling into each station.

“The beauty is when an idea comes up, and it’s about doing something for others, people are all over it, and that does my heart good,” Uebbing said. “It’s great to offer the kids such positive alternatives in their life.”

The students seemed unified in the cause.

“You’re helping people that otherwise wouldn’t have stuff for Christmas,” said junior Anthony Ortisi.

“It helps us to be a part of the community,” added Tyler Staup, junior. “It feels good to help people who need it.”

“It’s something our school really gets into, helping people you don’t know. But you don’t have to know someone to care about them,” said Abigail Lama, senior.

As Gabe O’Neil, also a senior, put it: “It’s the season of giving — it’s what we do.” 

Bishop Foley Catholic High School is located at 32000 Campbell Road and can be reached by calling (248) 585-1210.