By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 27, 2014
HAPEVILLE—Loaves of bread, packages of cheese, ham and bologna covered tables in the gym, the cafeteria and the art room at St. John the Evangelist School in Hapeville. Hundreds of boys, girls, teens, and parents with glove-wrapped hands help put the sandwiches together.
The goal was to make sandwiches for four Atlanta area shelters for the homeless, but the focus was on who will be receiving the food.
“As we are making the sandwiches, we are really making these sandwiches for Jesus,” principal Karen Vogtner told a crowded church on Thursday, Nov. 20.
Student-led prayers in the church began the service project.
“To feed our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need,” prayed an eighth-grader. “Give us a desire to be part of the feeding and sharing,” said another. Others then read Bible passages that emphasized care for the less fortunate, both from the Old and New Testaments.
Downstairs, meanwhile, parents and others were getting ready for when the doors would swing open and more than 200 people would fill the cafeteria.
“All the kids look forward to knowing they are helping a cause,” said Judy Benjamin, the president of the Home & School Association.
She said students are encouraged to make the sandwiches the way they’d like them, and not make the event a race. Benjamin said this is just one event the school does to help people who are homeless; in addition, there are collections to help people with clean coats and warm socks.
Parents and classes donate the sandwich ingredients, which are turkey or ham, cheese, and bread. Shelters ask the school to follow guidelines so the food can be frozen and stored until there is a need. The sandwiches have no mayonnaise, mustard or condiments. Once assembled, the sandwiches are packed back into the bread bag because they are easier to store that way. The shelters receiving the donations are a battered women’s shelter, My Sister’s House, The Rainbow House, and The Shepherd’s Inn.
At the end of the evening, 2,600 sandwiches had been prepared.
“We should have a thankful heart no matter what,” Vogtner said. This time of year students will be enjoying a meal, surrounded by loved ones, but they can be reminded that others will be out in the cold, Vogtner said.
The school community has been doing this popular program for years. Graduates of the school return to help because it was meaningful for them. Indeed, Peter Ninh and Chisom Anachebe were dressed in their St. Pius High School uniforms. They are both in 10th grade at the high school, but made a point to come back to their former school.
“I’ve been doing this every single year I went to St. John,” said Ninh. “I want to keep doing the tradition.”