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booked with compassion

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All too often we hear of tragedies in the world, but are at a loss as to how we can help—especially when events happen in other states or halfway across the globe. Being part of the Church both grants us access to a helpful network and calls us to reach out to others, to be Christ to them.

When many Kentucky communities flooded this past summer, pictures circulated on the news of people digging their homes and businesses out of the mud. In Whitesburg, the seat of Letcher County, KY, water flooded to nine feet in the high school. Families who would have been preparing for a new school year shared that many schools and their contents, including books, were damaged or destroyed.

Students at St. Christopher School in Vandalia, OH, responded this past fall by sharing the love of Christ with those students in flood-ravaged Kentucky. Interestingly, the invitation to help came from a Lutheran Church in Wise, Virginia, Christ Lutheran Church. After seeing news coverage of the damage, their outreach committee, which includes many educators, met to discuss what they could do. They felt called to collect books for those school libraries in Letcher County needing replacement reading materials. They sent word to the local community, and Elizabeth Steele, the committee’s chairperson, mentioned it to her sister, Connie.

Previously on faculty at St. Christopher School, Connie reached out to former colleagues for help from the school. Carrie Hartley, the librarian and a junior high teacher, took up the charge. During read-a-thon week in early November, St. Christopher School added a book drive for the students in eastern Kentucky, and the PTO offered a popsicle party for the class that collected the most books.

Meanwhile, teachers shared information and photos about the flooding in eastern Kentucky. One photo showed a person shoveling the muddy books they hoped to replace—an image that moved the students and spurred their generous response. “It was nice to have a concrete way to help,” said Hartley. “The students really appreciated … that.” For older students, it was a time to reflect on what they enjoyed reading when they were younger; some donated those specific titles so that others could enjoy the same stories.

St. Christopher’s 286 students in kindergarten through eighth grade raised 2,077 books, to which were added 56 boxes of books from Ohio. These were stored until Elizabeth could bring them to Wise, VA. With flood damage still being repaired, the books were kept in Whitestown’s bus facilities until they could be placed on shelves.

Struck by the reality that this was not just a Catholic or Lutheran endeavor, Elizabeth said this generosity “speaks well of humanity.” It was a human undertaking that transcended religious denominations and demonstrated that Christians are called to work together to help those in need, just as Christ encountered, loved and helped the people He met.

This article appeared in the February 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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