Catholic schools team up to feed the hungry

FOOD DRIVE — Central Catholic High School seniors, from left, Clay Slyder, Luke Duplaga, Jake Laurine, Chase Edgerton, Domenic Mills and Kyle Newmeyer stand last week with bags prepared for the school’s 48th-annual canned food drive. Students delivered the bags for donating canned food throughout the Wheeling area and will collect them Saturday.

Catholic schools in the Wheeling and Weirton areas are teaming up to combat hunger during the holiday season and year-round.

Students and staff at eight Catholic schools are part of a collaborative effort to collect, sort and deliver canned food for charities that aid those who are hungry.

“We wanted to feed the hungry in greater way than the past,” John Yelenic, director of admissions and retention at Central Catholic High School said. “Even though it seems like the economy has moved in a better direction for some, it’s been stagnant for others.”

Students at Central Catholic High School delivered 5,000 bags last week that can be filled with donated canned or boxed goods to homes in the Wheeling area. The bags will be collected Saturday and used for the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center’s Christmas baskets for those in need.

The canned food drive was part of a broader partnership with four other schools: Our Lady of Peace School, Corpus Christi School, St. Vincent de Paul School and St. Michael Parish School, Yelenic said. Students at those schools will help pick up the bags.

Yelenic, who helped with Central’s bag deliveries, said it means a lot to see students who would not normally participate in charity take something away from the event.

“Those are the gifts of doing a drive like this, that it not only impacts the community and charities, but it also impacts every kid that goes out and feels like they actually had a part in it,” he said.

Throughout the year, Catholic students in the Wheeling area help at Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center, 125 18th St., while students in the Weirton area assist the food programs Community Bread Basket and Table of Hope. Those Weirton area schools include Madonna High School, St. Paul School of Weirton and St. Joseph the Worker.

“By providing literally thousands and thousands of pounds of food each year, I can’t begin to express how priceless it is,” Community Bread Basket Program Administrator Tara Sheperd said in a statement from the Northern Panhandle Catholic School Alliance. “These students have an eye-opening experience and realize how much they are truly helping a struggling family.”

The initiatives by schools to help the hungry are done in conjunction with Catholic Charities West Virginia, which provides services that include basic needs assistance and help to families and individuals. Beth Collins, regional director for the organization, oversees its offices in Weirton, Wheeling, New Martinsville and Morgantown.

“It is so crucial to initiate the importance of empathy at a young age,” Collins said. “It is much easier for a child at a very young age to learn empathy and gain an understanding of dignity than it is as an adult.”