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As the holiday season approaches, many families look for ways to support the local community and share their gratitude and thanksgiving with others. Dr. Gabe Germann, director of campus ministry at MDS, encourages families to engage in opportunities that allow connections with people different from your own family. Choose a tangible project which will create meaningful situations and help your young people with experienced-based gratitude.

For example, Dr. Germann leads annual grade-level spiritual and service retreats. The 9th grade retreat occurs at the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church food pantry, which serves more than 1,500 people annually. Students perform a variety of services during the day-long retreat. They deliver more than 5,000 cans collected in the school-wide food drive. They stock the pantry, assist families shopping for groceries, and prepare, serve, and share a meal with those in need.

This unique experience provides students with a personal connection with each individual who stops in. Students meet, talk, and spend quality time with people they may never have come across in their everyday lives. Students step outside of their comfort zone, practice conversation skills, and more than anything, “get fired up,” Dr. Germann says.  Students see what their fundraising efforts can do. The students’ donations directly help the people they connect with on retreat.

Coach Adrienne Hixon shares her experience as a faculty chaperone on this trip. “I love that the students get a first-hand look into how our canned food drive impacts so many and how one day of serving a hot meal and having a conversation can make someone’s day so much better. It is one of my favorite retreats.

To bring everything full circle, seniors also participate in the retreat at St. Peter Claver; they lead in the kitchen and cook the meal. These students first experienced the food pantry as freshman. Four years later, they experience the day in a new light.  Students connect with the community in which they live, see the differences in homelessness and the working poor, and assist all who need an extra hand.

Elena Hintermaier, MDS senior, admits, “The freshman retreat at the SPC food pantry was by far the most impactful retreat I have done, because it truly demonstrates how we need to be aware of those who are struggling right here in our city. Being able to have conversations with these families allowed me to connect with our community and showed me how to see Christ in each and every person I encounter.”

To share share joy in your community this holiday season, the St. Peter Claver Food Pantry is always looking for assistance, (478) 743-1454. For a more extensive list of opportunities, visit this 13WMAZ website or Gateway Macon.

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Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties.  MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.