Two rooms in the church’s community center will become toy shops, where parents can come to select Christmas gifts for their children. The canned food will be donated to the parish’s food pantry and the blankets to tribal elders, according to Charlotte Ann Wagner, religious education coordinator at St. Anthony.
Now in its fourth year, Holy Spirit Parish begins its collection before Thanksgiving, said Sarah Elmer, youth minister at the Darboy-Kimberly parish. Canned goods are first collected. “Then every week it’s something different that the religious ed classes and the school kids bring in,” she said. “It’s actually a nice project we all work on together — youth ministry, religious ed and the (parish) school.”
In addition to collecting items, parish youth help transport them to Neopit. “Any of the sixth through 12th graders from the parish are invited,” said Elmer. “They set up a couple of rooms and we bring in all of the toys.”
“This is our way of getting our children to see that within an hour of our parish, there are people in real need,” said Franciscan Sr. Elise Cholewinski, director of religious education. “It gets a lot of the kids involved, more than just bringing in something. It’s also hands-on.”
Elmer said the parish youth group also travels to Neopit in the summer to participate in service projects. She said the summer service and the Advent outreach projects not only help parish youth form relationships in their own community, “they also feel connected with the larger church and they realize that there are other kids and other parishes that they can support and be connected with.”
“I really like the idea of them working with each other and praying for those other kids,” said Elmer.
According to Wagner, the Christmas gifts are made available to the entire community. “It’s a quietly done thing,” she said. “People who need help know we are here for it. We don’t advertise it.”
Wagner said the parish is grateful to Holy Spirit, as well as other parishes in the diocese, for their generous service.
“When Fr. (Dave) Kiefer was alive, there was a parish that members of his family belonged to in Naperville, Ill.,” she said. “They used to collect toys for us. It was just a couple of years later that Holy Spirit in Kimberly started filling that need again.”
Other parishes, including Resurrection in Allouez, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Green Bay, and St. Thomas More in Appleton, also collect Christmas goods for parishes on the Menominee reservation, said Wagner.
“It really helps people out,” she said. “It makes them feel good that they have something nice to give to their children. A nice meal, that means a lot to them.”