Published January 22, 2004
Blessed Trinity Catholic High School is not just a community of young adults entering a building to enrich their minds. This school is a place where their souls have an opportunity to be enriched as well.
One of the many requirements placed on students at Blessed Trinity is community service. Each student is required to log over 20 hours for the year toward service in his or her community, school and place of worship. The administration and many parents feel that community service is as much a gift to the students as it is the community.
“Our Lord calls us to share with others the many rich gifts and talents that He has given us,” said Father Kevin Hargaden, chaplain at Blessed Trinity. “The gift of service is a marvelous blessing for the giver as well as the recipient. As the prayer of St. Francis so beautifully says, ‘… it is in giving that we receive.’”
During the school’s first semester, the students logged over 7,500 community service hours. Last year the student body completed over 14,000 hours. And with almost 850 students enrolled at Blessed Trinity, the total number of community service hours for this year could reach 17,000 hours.
Principal Frank Moore said that service has always been a priority at Blessed Trinity.
“When Blessed Trinity first opened its doors, one thing we were committed to was to be a part of both the Catholic community and the wider North Fulton community as well,” he said. “Our students made an early and lasting impact on both communities through their outreach efforts.”
The Blessed Trinity Titans football team participates in a community service project in December that touches the lives of boys living in a group home in College Park.
For the last three years, athletic director and head football coach Ricky Turner, his wife, Lynn, and members of the football team have filled up their cars and SUVs with toys, clothes and food, and spent a day with half a dozen underprivileged boys.
Coach Turner believes that while the main goal of the annual visit is to make Christmas a happy time for the boys, the added benefit to the football players is just as important.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our kids to not only help others, but they see how fortunate they are to have a mom and dad and a nice house to live in,” he said. “They learn a sense of community and doing for others. We have a lot of very blessed families at Blessed Trinity and to have our players realize how they can make a difference is great.”
Lynn Turner first got in touch with the home through The Children’s Restoration Network in Roswell. Every fall she sends a letter to the parents of the football players with a list of clothing sizes and Christmas wishes provided by the group home. A large gift is also purchased for the home such as a computer, a basketball hoop or Nintendo games. Each child also receives a stocking.
“There were six boys, ages 6-12, this year that live in the home with employees who take care of them both day and night,” Mrs. Turner said. “These boys are in the custody of the state and have no contact with their parents—some are in jail, some have disappeared. This year, there were five new boys in the home; only one from the previous year remained. These children are transferred and moved all the time. On the day we did the party in Christmas 2002, a young child had just arrived. He had been taken from his ‘home’ and came to the College Park facility with only the clothes on his back, nothing else. He put our gifts to use immediately. He was truly a child in need. They were all so appreciative.”
They visited with the boys all day on one Saturday, Coach Turner said. “Each boy opens two gifts from us that day; the rest are for Christmas morning. We play touch football, have a great lunch and just spend the day playing with them.”
Marie and Herman Ogilvie are the proprietors of Ogilvie-Carrington Centers, Inc., located in Atlanta. The center is responsible for the College Park facility, along with five other group homes that take in children placed by the Department of Family and Children Services and Juvenile Justice.
Mrs. Ogilvie said the kids at the home are sometimes more excited to see the Blessed Trinity students than they are to see the gifts.
“The kids just love Blessed Trinity,” said Mrs. Ogilvie. “The kids see love first and the gifts as fun. There is nothing like having a busload of football players pull up in front of the house.”
Mrs. Turner recalled a young boy’s appreciation.
“When Mrs. Ogilvie asked each boy to thank us for the gifts one said, ‘I know there is a God because if there weren’t, you wouldn’t be here today.’”
The Christmas visit is not the only contact the children have with the school. They have attended a homecoming game as well as a few basketball games. According to Coach Turner, community service leaves the students with a lasting connection.
“This past Thanksgiving, the Seiferheld family hosted the boys from the group home for dinner. Our players have become attached to these children.”
One of the most popular, if not one of the oldest service groups at Blessed Trinity is the school’s Peer Helpers group. The group was organized by the guidance department the first year the school opened. Nancy Eramian, a guidance counselor, is the advisor for the 50-member group.
The mission of the group has evolved from a school-focused organization to one that directs its activities to both school and the community.
“We are a service-driven organization,” Eramian said. “Aside from the school requirement for community service, I think it’s important that BT be represented in the community at large as a school whose members want to contribute and make a difference. Two years ago we did a service project to raise money for the Alpharetta-based Canine Assistants program during which we hosted an assembly and followed it with a school-wide fund-raiser when Canine Assistants visited during lunch one day with puppies-in-training.”
Today the school’s Peer Helpers have become inextricably linked to this nonprofit organization, which trains service dogs for people with physical disabilities. This involvement has taken many forms including a yard-work day at the facility, two fund-raisers at school, a second assembly and the creation of welcome baskets for new recipients who come from all over the country to train with their dogs at the Alpharetta location.
In January 2002, the Peer Helpers’ dedication to Canine Assistants took on a very personal relationship with Canine Assistants recipient Sean Hanney. Hanney lives in a local assisted-living facility and is wheelchair-bound due to Parkinson’s disease.
“His golden retriever, Loree, needed to be exercised and walked after school each day,” Eramian said. “This activity became the first BT Walkers group. The following year parent volunteers were recruited to walk Loree at lunchtime each weekday. We had an overwhelming response from the parents; one parent who works near the facility even organized his co-workers to cover Loree’s walks when he travels.”
BT Walker and junior Sarah Ridgway said that she has learned about the gift of service from walking the dog.
“I love walking Loree and talking to Mr. Hanney because it makes me realize what others don’t have and what I can do for them. I didn’t realize how much community service really meant until I started walking Loree on a weekly basis,” she said. “And now I realize what a profound effect my service has on other people.”
The BT Walkers were recognized at the Awards Assembly for their yearlong service.
The school’s Future Business Leaders of America Club collected winter wear in November for a fall semester community service project. The group collected 80 coats, and bags filled with hats, gloves and sweaters. All donations went to the Atlanta Union Mission’s Shepherd’s Inn for men and My Sister’s House for women and children.
According to BT sophomore Lisa Donnellan, “It’s great to be able to help those less fortunate.”
While many of the students are finding community service through in-school activities or through the school’s bulletin board, others are going out into the community to learn just what is needed and have created their own experiences.
Junior Elizabeth Walker, a 16-year-old Canton resident, received the President’s Student Service Gold Award in recognition of her dedication to volunteering/community service. Although Walker is not Catholic she is very involved in her church. She is a Youth Advisory Delegate to the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served as an Elder at her church.
The award required a minimum of 100 hours of community service. The service that was submitted for the award was a mission trip Walker took with her family last school year to Nashville, where they worked at the Nashville Union Mission, serving meals and sorting clothing. They also worked at a shelter for battered women, a food clothing distribution center, and a senior day-care center. Another service submitted for the award was at an Atlanta mission similar to Nashville in June.
Walker also worked at Santa’s Caravan, Angel Food Ministries and served at an Atlanta women’s shelter. In total, Walker completed over 200 hours of community service.
This past summer, Patrick Young, a 16-year-old junior from Roswell, logged in 57.5 hours of volunteer service at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. He volunteered to work with patients, and in orthotics (helping to make casts). CHOA was so pleased with Young’s dedication to service that they invited him back next year to return as a Day Captain.
Two Blessed Trinity siblings, Shannon and Jordan Litterilla, a sophomore and senior respectively, help children through Dreampower Therapy Riding Center, which is an organization dedicated to making a difference in the lives of disabled children. Early Saturday mornings they go to the center’s barn in Alpharetta with the goal to help children with physical disabilities, like cerebral palsy and blindness, ride horses. They work with children and help them become confident and gain more experience handling horses. The children learn new skills and have fun participating.
Shannon and about 15 other volunteers are responsible for making sure the children have a fun and safe time. She grooms horses, saddles them and cleans up after them. When the kids arrive and lessons begin, Shannon helps them onto the horses and guides them through the lesson on foot.
Shannon said that there are varying stages of horse skill in the children.
“Some of the kids are at stages where they can trot … others are still learning to go left and right,” she said.
A child’s lesson usually involves games to enhance their learning ability. Shannon loves working with the kids, and loves especially “seeing the smile on their faces.”
Another way that Blessed Trinity students have been involved in helping their community is through their association with the Boy Scouts of America. Many young men at the school have attained the impressive distinction of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. According to Eagle Scout guidelines, a Boy Scout must complete requirements in the areas of leadership, service and outdoor skills, and they must plan and fund a project to help their community.
BT senior Wes Coleman built retaining walls and stairs at an area high school to stop erosion and provide access to an outdoor classroom. Another senior, Nick DiLuzio, built nine park benches to be placed around Queen of Angels, the Catholic grade school on the same campus as Blessed Trinity. BT junior Kyle Koza built benches at the Smith Plantation in Roswell. According to Koza, this experience helped him “gain a greater respect for the history and the people of my city.”
Not only do the boys involved feel good about helping their community, they feel a better sense of self after doing it.
Some Blessed Trinity students were also involved in collecting items for the soldiers in Iraq this past Veterans Day. The National Honor Society heard on the radio that WZGC, Z-93 FM, was sponsoring a drive for much needed items. Nan Morris, a BT parent, was involved in dropping items off and got to make a video message to the soldiers.
“NHS collected all sorts of things: baby wipes, batteries, any type of sealed food like Tang, hard candies and ChapStick. Anything to help make it more comfortable for the soldiers,” she said. “The kids only had a few days, but they were able to collect several shopping bags of items. They got to sign a banner to the soldiers on behalf of our school. It was a great experience for them.”
Community service at Blessed Trinity has become as much a part of the school as the student uniforms. It is only through the dedication and prayers of the school community that others think of service when they hear Blessed Trinity’s name.
“The work of service builds up the kingdom of God,” Father Hargaden said. “The U.S. bishops remind us (that) ‘central to our identity as Catholics is that we are called to be leaven for transforming the world, agents for bringing about a kingdom of love and justice.’”
For those interested in helping out in any of the programs mentioned, the contact information is listed below.
The Children’s Restoration
875 Old Roswell Road
Roswell, GA 30075
(770) 454-9190 (770) 649-7117
Ogilvie-Carrington Center, Inc.
814 Lynhurst Drive, SW
Atlanta, GA 30311-2210
3160 Francis Road
Alpharetta, GA 30004
(770) 664-7178 (800) 771-7221
Atlanta Union Mission
2355 Bolton Road, NW
Atlanta, GA 30318-1230
Dreampower Therapy Riding Center
15055 Birmingham Highway
Alpharetta, GA 30004