Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

012017 Cougar Caritas1,000-plus students perform days of service

CHARLOTTE — More than 1,000 Charlotte Catholic High School students shared the spirit of the Christmas season through “Cougar Caritas,” a new charity initiative that placed them throughout the Charlotte community for two days of service just before the Christmas break.

On Dec. 17 and 19, students took part in a variety of projects throughout the city, including preparing and delivering meals, bringing Christmas cheer and music to nursing home residents, making care packages for wounded veterans, assisting special-needs children with horseback riding therapy, sorting and wrapping Christmas gifts for underprivileged children, caring for animals at the Humane Society shelters, cleaning signs and painting fences on the greenway, organizing food pantry donations, and many other charitable works. Sixty-two different projects were planned and carried out over the two days, resulting in more than 5,000 total service hours spread across Charlotte. Forty-one different agencies, from Huntersville to Rock Hill, were served by the high school students.

One project, which took place in the high school cafeteria, involved more than 100 students preparing meals for Servants with a Heart, a Waxhaw organization that distributes the meals to hungry families in Haiti, through a partnership with Samaritans International. In addition, Servants with a Heart distributes a percentage of the meals locally. Charlotte Catholic students prepared and packaged an amazing 51,000 meals, which then were packed in boxes that the students decorated with messages of Christmas cheer.

Other projects completed were:

- Preparing and organizing 1,280 donated books for underprivileged schools, assisting Promising Pages

- Making blankets and preparing toiletry kits for the homeless, assisting Urban Ministry

- Making dog beds and dog toys for animal shelters, assisting the Humane Society, Project 2 Heal, and Hollyz Hope

- Making bouquets of flowers for nursing homes, spreading Christmas cheer to Elmcroft and Hillcrest

- Making sensory games for Alzheimer’s residents, assisting Suzanne’s Cottage

- Improving trails at the visitor’s center, assisting the Raptor Center

- Making tote bags for homeless children, each of which contained a stuffed animal and a story written by CCHS students about the stuffed animal, assisting A Child’s Place

- Making coloring books and games for children in hospitals, assisting Levine Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House

“Caritas,” a Latin word meaning charity and Christian love of humankind, was an easy choice for the all-encompassing theme of the day of service, said Mary Jayne Dawson, director of Campus Ministry and organizer of the initiative. “With such a wide variety of service projects occurring in a single day, it was important to give this event a name that embodies all that we do, and the spirit in which we serve,” she said.

Charlotte Catholic’s current school year has been named a Year of Virtues, focusing on nine particular virtues: acceptance and humility, responsibility and justice, gratitude, hope and peace, compassion and kindness, forgiveness, courage and grace, faith and joy, and charity. December was the month that CCHS students focused on charity.

The purpose of the Year of Virtues is to encourage the desire to practice good deeds and positive behaviors at school, at home, and in the community. Focusing on one virtue each month encourages school-wide conversations and actions to demonstrate each virtue, and allows the students to celebrate with a common language throughout the school year.

“Cougar Caritas is our response to the conflict, hurt, and confusion so evident in our city, our state and our nation these last few months,” said Jeremy Kuhn, co-chair of the English Department. “It is Charlotte Catholic’s Christmas present to the city, a day of school-wide service projects on and off campus to honor the Reason for the Season.

“Every meal made, every gift bag stuffed, every present delivered, every therapy animal groomed, every residence cleaned, every greenway trail cleared is time, talent, and treasure joyfully given. Every visit with a veteran, every story to a kindergartner, every Christmas card for a stranger, every carol to the elderly is simply one more kept promise to imitate Jesus Christ’s own loving sacrifice.”

Principal Kurt Telford added, “I am grateful to the faculty – led by Mary Jayne Dawson and Jeremy Kuhn – for providing leadership to Cougar Caritas and, of course, to our students, for carrying this out so well.”

Also, the traditional Charlotte Catholic High Christmas Child Campaign – a 30-year partnership between Diocese of Charlotte Catholic Charities and the high school – was another success this past December. Under the direction of Dr. Lincoln Sigwald and the student council, students and their families donated more than $14,000 in toys and money to purchase items for needy families. Because of their generosity, 71 children received Christmas gifts this year.

— Carolyn Kramer Tillman, Special to the Catholic News Herald