Bradenton | Hurricane Irma brought many winds of change to St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. When students returned to school last fall, following the hurricane which struck Sept. 10, 2017, they realized one of the Diocesan schools, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Naples, had suffered severe damage.
The students at St. Joseph wanted to do something to help their sister school. They did so by working together and partnering with Otis Spunkmeyer to raise money for hurricane relief. As a result, the Student Council members were able to travel to Naples to present a check in the amount of $11,750 to St. Elizabeth Ann Catholic School.
While the students were in Naples, they witnessed the devastation to the area. It was then that they noted the windows which had been destroyed at St. Elizabeth School were nearly identical to the one’s installed in St. Joseph Catholic School in 1954 when it was built. It then became important to become proactive and replace the windows at St. Joseph School with high-impact hurricane windows. However, this was going to take more than selling cookies and pies.
In early December, St. Joseph Parish initiated the “Windows to the Future” project by pledging half of the needed funds in support of the school. The James M. Doss Charitable Foundation Trust generously gave a grant of $50,000. St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Longboat Key and St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach quickly pledged their support. As the only Catholic school in Manatee County, other Catholic Parishes offered support. In addition, individuals began donating and the needed funds began to grow.
The Stephen and Jennifer Ierulli family stepped forward and offered to match funds donated during the Patterson Foundation Giving Challenge. Parents, grandparents, relatives, parishioners, alumni and friends supported the project and gave generously, and the Ierulli family matched $52,000. With the Giving Challenge donations and the Patterson Foundation match, the dream of new windows became a reality.
In May, excitement rippled across the 40-acre school campus when semi trucks rolled into the parking area. Students in preschool through eighth grade watched the installation begin as a result of all of the hard work and generosity of so many. Throughout the summer, a total of six campus buildings will be updated with safe, energy-efficient, high-impact windows.
As the doors of the school close for summer vacation, the St. Joseph Catholic School community is grateful that next August, the 65th anniversary year of the school, will open with new windows on the future, ensuring that the excellent education provided to students that have attended the oldest Christian and only Catholic School in Manatee County will continue for many years into the future.
Rooted in Catholic faith and committed to academic excellence, St. Joseph Catholic School develops personal responsibility, character, service and leadership. Registration is ongoing, financial aid is available. For more information about the school, call 941-755-2611 or visit www.sjsfl.org.
Suddarth is the principal of St. Joseph Catholic School and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.