When Hurricane Maria slammed the island of Puerto Rico last fall, there were more than homes and businesses that were affected. Schools were also impacted, and many were and still are closed.
The students at Immaculate Conception School in Morris and its associated Council of Catholic Women, CCW, and the parish’s Religious Education Program took note of the devastation and decided to do something about it – specifically for a school of the same name.
In Spanish, it is La Academia Immaculada Concepsion, and it’s located in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
“It was damaged in the hurricane,” said CCW member Jeanne Talarico, who spearheaded the project. “There was severe plumbing damage and a lot of exterior damage.”
There were also three families there who were particularly affected.
“They lost absolutely everything except the clothes on their backs,” Talarico said.
The school is back in session now, she said, but only has electricity about half the time. Talarico brainstormed the idea to help the Puerto Rican school and its families who were affected after seeing the effects of the hurricane on the population and remembering the first story of Nicholas. In 280 AD, a Middle Eastern boy knew of a family struggling and helped them by secretly putting coins in a stocking in the family’s house.
Paying homage to the story, the Immaculate Conception CCW put men’s work socks in the ICS classrooms the week after Thanksgiving, asking the students to donate their nickels to the,“Nickels for St. Nick,” campaign. During the next two weeks, the students had raised $850 for the Puerto Rican school.
“So the children,” Talarico explained, “instead of receiving from St. Nick, gave to St. Nick. They just wanted to help this school in Puerto Rico. It was the right thing for the students to do. ICS is known for helping the down and out. ... That’s what life’s all about.”
Secretary of the Immaculate Conception Parish Gloria Folkers said ICS students do a lot for the community, including helping restock the parish’s pantry and participating in a Hunger Walk each year to replenish supplies in several area food pantries. CCW member and former ICS teacher Janine Petric said the students have also packed food boxes for the needy at Feed my Starving Children and celebrate Mass with nursing home residents each month.
“It’s ingrained in them,” Petric said. “They learn from a young age how to help and serve. It’s what Jesus wants us to do.”