JEFFERSON — Human dignity was the lesson of the day on Dec. 11 for Jefferson Area High School’s Senior Leadership. By serving food, singing Christmas carols and entertaining guests, Jefferson students created a very merry atmosphere for the Catholic Charities representative payee annual Christmas luncheon at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Jefferson Senior Leadership is a service organization. Despite the time of year, they are willing to branch out in the community and give back in thanks for all that the community has offered them.
The tables were decorated with garland and Christmas-themed centerpieces. The students served food prepared by Catholic Charities volunteers in a buffet-style arrangement. The Catholic Charities staff made sure everything went according to plan. The guests flooded in with gratitude of what Jefferson Student Council and Catholic Charities had offered them. The overall feeling of the event was jolly and merry.
Michael Barney, Jefferson’s Senior Leadership adviser, began preparing for the event in advance. “We began fund-raising with our annual Powder Puff Football game in early November,” said Barney.
The proceeds from the game allowed the Senior Leadership Club to use $400 to purchase supplies for the gift bags that they gave to the guests, also called representative payee clients, attending the luncheon. The bags contained hygiene products, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and shampoo. The clients were very grateful for the gift bags.
The Jefferson Seniors also benefited greatly from the experience. Ashton Adkins, a senior at Jefferson Area High School, volunteered at the event and was surprised by the many ways that Catholic Charities has helped Ashtabula County. “Prior to the event, I didn’t know much about the Catholic Charities, but when I went with Senior Leadership to the luncheon I realized it was a significant community outreach program that helps those less fortunate,” Adkins said.
Other students, including LeeAnn Farr and Jacob Hamilton, agreed in saying that the luncheon was very inspirational and beneficial to the citizens who attended.
Jefferson Senior Leadership was very thankful for the experience that they acquired.
“Talking to the people that attended the lunch, and hearing all of their stories was very interesting,” Hamilton said. The clients that the event sponsored are citizens of Ashtabula county that have challenges such as mental illnesses, alcohol or drug history, or other issues that prevent them from being able to manage their finances independently. “Volunteering at this event made me realize all that we have to be grateful for, and it allowed us to give back to the county the best that we could,” said Farr. The Catholic Charities staff was just as thrilled to have Jefferson students on their team for the day. Jennifer Cleveland, the supervisor of Protective Services, was in charge of planning the day. She viewed the event as helping to make the holidays special for those who don’t have a lot of material resources and the chance to see that even those who struggle the most have something to offer us, whether it be a beautiful voice, a sense of humor or expert organizational skills. “If those who attended the event are smiling and eating, then it was a great success,” Cleveland said. And a great success it was. The students, staff and clients all enjoyed the experience and were rewarded in some form. The students were rewarded with a sense of pride that they were able to give back to their hometown. The Catholic Charities staff was rewarded by planning another successful event that benefited their clients. The clients were rewarded with a great meal, a warm atmosphere and the feeling of hope.