Children of Rural Farm Workers Get Back-to-School Surprise

The start of the school year has been a difficult one for many families – deciding between in-person or online learning, adapting to COVID-19 precautions, transitioning back to school after so many months away. Now imagine facing those challenges on top of not having access to the necessary school supplies. But thanks to Catholic Charities St. Augustine, that wasn’t an issue for parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Crescent City.

Because of the hard work of Father Heriberto Vergara, the Claretian Missionary Sisters and volunteers from both St. John the Baptist and Catholic Charities St. Augustine, 280 children received backpacks full of school supplies, including pencils, pens, notebooks, scissors, glue and more, at outreach events on August 13, 20 and 21. Originally, volunteers expected only 125 students, but as families continued to sign up for school supplies and surpass what had been purchased, St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Anastasia Parish and other donors stepped in to help more than double that number of children get the supplies they needed.

Sixteen of those were students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Palm Coast who, because of this year’s Rural Education Initiative, are bussed from Crescent City to Palm Coast every day. The Rural Educational Initiative is a program started to help economically disadvantaged, struggling immigrant families, or those who have to travel extensive distances to attend a Catholic school, by providing a solid Catholic education that will help to form the future of our church and society. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor and Carolyn and Larry Schaffer, two busses were purchased last month for $90,000 to drive 24 students from Crescent City to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Catholic Charities St. Augustine will also provide school and gym uniforms for these sixteen students.

“You could see their happy faces when they received the supplies,” said Ana Johnson, administrative assistant at Catholic Charities. “Each of them thanked us and said they felt so blessed. I know this would not have been possible without the Holy Spirit working through the hearts of so many people.”

Catholic Charities is one of many ministries partially funded by the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal.