Students from St. Joseph Catholic School Builders Club pare seen with residents of Summerfield assisted living facility in Bradenton on Valentine's Day. The students have each been recognized as "A Disciple of Christ" for volunteering their time for the benefit of others. (BOB REDDY | FC)

Students offer love and comfort

BRADENTON  |  Being “A Disciple of Christ” means thinking of others, just as Christ did during His ministry on earth.

A group of 17 students from the St. Joseph Catholic School Builders Club did just that. Instead of going home at the end of a half-day of school, they opted to spread Valentine’s Day cheer to the residents of the nearby Summerfield assisted living facility in Bradenton.

Students played a variety of games with the residents. The most popular was a variation on bingo. As a special treat the students brought gift bags with prizes (nail polish, other items) for the participants. For residents who did not wish to take part in the games, students took time to speak to them as both young and old alike shared stories about their lives.

Resident Betty learned to play Yahtzee (a dice game), while enjoying spending time with the students. “It is so sweet for them to visit. They are so kind and very energetic.” 

Another resident, Joyce, said she was impressed that the students volunteered their time to visit when they could be home or outside playing. “When I was young, we could only be seen and not heard. It is amazing that these young ones care enough to want to be here. It means so much to me and to everyone.”

As a special treat, residents were given Valentine’s Day cards, each with a handwritten note expressing kindness and warmth.

The Builders Club is a service leadership program of the Kiwanis Club, and encourages students to work on service projects in their community. Anthony Longo, Club President, said his fellow students wanted to do something special for others as “Disciples of Christ,” so reaching out to spend time with the residents of an assisted living facility seemed like the perfect option. “We organized this because we wanted to do more, and Valentine’s Day was the perfect time. We work on projects for the school, but this was something special.”

Teacher Mara Curran said she was impressed when the students opted to skip going home early so they could spread the “light of Christ to the residents of Summerfield.” Many of the students had visited the facility at Christmas when they were in kindergarten, so they inquired about doing so again at a time when many have no one with whom to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

As part of the ongoing 35th Anniversary of the Diocese of Venice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane challenged young people of the Diocese, in particular students at Diocesan Catholic schools, to become “A Disciple of Christ” in how they lived and acted.

For their volunteering at the assisted living facility, each student was recognized and presented with a #DisciplesDOV T-shirt, courtesy of the Diocese of Venice Offices of Education and Communications.

Student Valerie Rettig said it was fun to visit the elderly in the assisted living facility stressing how important it is to reach out to others. “As ‘A Disciple of Christ’ we are each called to follow God and Jesus; working hard to be a good person and kind to everyone, not for fame or recognition, because we are all Children of God.” 

Serafina Calonneso said “‘A Disciple of Christ’ is someone who is kind and loving to everyone. We are called to help to make the world a better place. Being ‘A Disciple of Christ’ will help make that happen.”