Published January 25, 2007
Students at St. John Neumann Regional School have served the poor and homeless in downtown Atlanta each month during the school year for the past 13 years. In conjunction with Crossroads Community Ministries, housed at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, eighth-grade students collect fresh fruit from the student body at SJN, and a designated group of students, accompanied by parent volunteers, go to work the soup line on the second Tuesday of each month. By the end of the school year, each student has taken a turn serving a hot meal to the poor.
The ministry began with the class of 1994 and became the school’s community service component for confirmation. When confirmation became parish based and was moved to 10th grade, the eighth grade students continued in the ministry, which has become an integral part of the SJN’s middle school identity.
Recently, Julia Hanley, mother of an eighth-grade SJN student, drove a group of the students to St. Luke’s for the first time and was impressed not only with the Crossroads operation but also with the way the students performed their tasks. She said, “Our morning at the soup kitchen was an incredible experience for all of us. The staff at St. Luke’s explained how much they look forward to the St. John Neumann students coming to help. All of our students worked from the minute they arrived until the time they left—wiping trays, handing out fruit, serving trays and hot soup…”
Piper Brownlee and Daniel Goeckel, two eighth-graders who worked at St. Luke’s in December, both agreed that it was very different from what they had imagined.
“It wasn’t like I thought it would be. I was kind of scared at first, but everybody was so happy to see us, and we prayed before the kitchen opened. I got to hand out the fruit we brought. … It was interesting to see how many people were concerned about what kind of fruit they took,” said Brownlee, adding that she then noticed that “some didn’t have teeth.” Goeckel commented that he was “surprised at how nice everyone was. I got to pour the soup. I tried to make eye contact with the people as they came through the soup line. Some looked at me, and some didn’t.” Both students agreed that they were glad they went.
The homeless ministry at SJN is a ministry that not only feeds the poor—it feels the souls of the students and parents who have had the honor of serving the homeless and the hungry.