The Bellarmine College Preparatory community embraced the season of giving and collected loads of warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags and socks during its 24th Annual Winter Warmth Drive that occurred Nov. 13-21.
The drive resulted in donations of 880 blankets, throws and sleeping bags for HomeFirst’s Cold Weather Shelter program; 1,200 pairs of new socks and dozens of hygiene kits for Casa de Clara’s mobile shower program, Showers to the People; and hundreds of jackets, coats, sweatshirts and other warm clothes for Sacred Heart Community Service.
Among the contributors were several teachers who held classroom drives, the Jesuit Community, football and cross-country teams, Big Brothers program, Bellarmine Mothers’ Guild and Dads’ Club, sophomore homerooms, and Campus Ministry.
On Nov. 16, concurrent with the Winter Warmth Drive, 50 Bellarmine students took part in a poverty simulation to gain a sense of the daily challenges of poverty and homelessness, including an overnight Solidarity Sleep-out on the balcony of the school’s Liccardo Center. “Both events are experiential and designed to help students get a glimpse into the daily challenges faced by people living in poverty and/or experiencing homelessness,” said Anne Maloney, assistant director of Bellarmine’s Christian Service Program. Participants carried their items – books, food, clothes, and sleeping gear – in a large plastic bag to have a sense of having to keep all of one’s belongings wherever one travels. Prior to the sleep-out, students heard the stories of four individuals who have experienced homelessness.
“The aspect of the event that will stick with me the most … was the ineffable feeling, somewhere between overwhelmed and exhausted, that followed me around for the next few days,” reflected senior Thomas Clark. “I suppose that is the purpose of solidarity, to extend beyond my comfort zone and feel something, rather than engage with it intellectually. Coming out of this experience, I find myself more knowledgeable and aware of the issue of homelessness in our society.”
Another student noted, “I found the simulation enlightening, as it was quite stressful and hard to manage everything and support the rest of the family, yet it was only a tiny sample of how people in poverty live. It was eye-opening … It really motivates me to do more things for those who are down on their luck, whether it’s helping at a shelter/soup kitchen or donating to an organization.”
The Winter Warmth Drive was coordinated though the Bellarmine Christian Service Program team, led by Steve Pinkston; the AGAPE club; and Bellarmine alumni volunteer Obi Offorjebe, alumnus from the class of 2012.