Every two years during Lent, Sacred Heart Catholic School in New Smyrna Beach runs a huge project that stirs a mindfulness of the poor, especially the homeless in our community. It is called the “Homeless Lock-out”— simple enough to make middle school excited and big enough to raise money by talking to families and friends. This year it took place Friday, Feb. 2.
The biennial service project is dual in nature: to learn about homelessness and to raise funds for Bread for the World, an interdenominational project including all of the Catholic schools in Brevard County, to help fill food pantries throughout the area. It involved meetings, planning, worrying, and working!
During the homeless lockout, many activities took place, such as learning about poverty, not only in our country but also in other countries around the world. We talked about poverty and the possibilities to help based on the many options presented to us in our religion class relating to Catholic Social Justice teachings on our mission to care for the poor. Everyone was excited when the night finally arrived. When I returned to school for the main event at 8 p.m., parents and students were already waiting in line registering.
Mrs. Maria Bilodeau, our religion teacher, gave us a short briefing. Then we had three guest speakers: Mr. Russell Holloway, Delaney, a former student, and Mrs. Marsela Thombley.
Mr. Holloway is a volunteer who represented the Coalition for the Homeless in Daytona. He gave statistics and talked about the number of homeless people in our area—hundreds of which are school children. Delany is a former Sacred Heart student, now attending Father Lopez Catholic High School. She shared her experience on a mission trip to our sister diocese in the Dominican Republic. Lastly, Mrs. Thombley, a Sacred Heart parent, spoke about her experience as a volunteer teacher in the impoverished areas of Nicaragua.
After the talks, all 28 participants were given boxes and made little villages with them, showing how the homeless often sleep. We had a contest for the best group of boxes. We also had soup, sandwiches, and chips for dinner—eating on the floor to get a more real-life experience. We did a lot of team building activities and painted rocks with positive messages to hide around the community. We raised $3,100, enough to pack 11,000 meals for “Rise Against Hunger”, our Bread for the World service project for Lent, which will be another eye-opening story to share. One thing for sure – the homeless lock-out is a mission in progress and served to bring awareness about the homeless in our community.
Article written by Madeline, a seventh grade student at Sacred Heart Catholic School, New Smyrna Beach.