St. Mary students collect clothing, money to meet orphan needs
Jozelle Rexroat was thumbing through a copy of the Catholic Weekly newspaper last fall when a story about a retired Air Force colonel who has made it his mission to help orphanages in third world countries caught her eye.
The story was about Col. Victor Kuchar’s effort to provide staples to an orphanage in India. Rexroat years ago while working as the community development director at Lake Leelanau St. Mary started a program called “blankets of hope,” in which St. Mary students — boys and girls — set aside time for sewing. Their creations, some made with fleece, are donated where needed.
“I thought it would be a good recipient for blankets of hope,” said Rexroat, who tracked down Kuchar through the newspaper article. “In the process of learning about that, (Kuchar) told me about Afghan refuges. He shared with me this huge, big need. He said, ‘The thing you have to gather up is 2,000 pounds of clothing.’ I thought, ‘holy cow, that’s a lot of clothing.”
Rexroat and the St. Mary community were soon off and running, following the Class of 2012’s goal to donate 2,012 pounds of clothing.
And then the goal expanded as the need in Afghanistan became more clear. St. Mary volunteers would not only gather up more than a ton of clothing, they would also raise $2,012 to give to orphanages in Afghanistan.
Eventually Kuchar, a devout Catholic, came to Lake Leelanau to meet students and parish members. Lake Leelanau Excavating donated use of an empty building next to its office to store clothes. Samaritan’s Closet, a second-hand store in Lake Leelanau that serves as an outreach of the Leland Community United Methodist Church, also provided some clothing, Rexroat said.
“In a matter of four weeks, we had 4,000 pounds plus. The generosity of this community, and the willingness of kids to help, is just amazing,” Rexroat recalled. A U-Haul truck was rented to ship the clothing to an airbase in Alpena, where it was loaded on a cargo plane just a few weeks ago and shipped to Afghanistan.
Students sponsored “jean days” and held bake sales to fulfill the money side of the commitment. One class held a can drive. The Knights of Columbus made a sizeable donation.
And eventually, St. Mary school and parish wired $3,700 to the sisters of an Afghan orphanage.
St. Mary school principal Megan Glynn wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of help.
“I think it’s part of the Catholic church’s emphasis on service to the greater community,” she said.
The efforts may be just the first chapter. Kuchar recently met with Bishop Bernard Hebda of the Diocese of Gaylord and Charles Taylor, superintenent of Catholic schools in the Diocese, to discuss future humanitarian efforts.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the last time we’re going to help these people. I think it’s just the beginning,” Rexroat said.