It was later and more abbreviated than normal, but Edgewood High School’s annual community service event took place this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students were appreciative of the effort to keep the Edgewood in the Community tradition going in its new format.
“It’s really nice we get to go outside and do nice things for people,” said freshman James Bradley, who was assigned to do yard work at a home near the school. “It’s one of the few activities that is still going on.”
Community members also benefitted.
“It means a lot,” said Sister Mary Schmitz as she watched students do yard cleanup.
She said she can feel overwhelmed about the work involved.
“I look at these things and think, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” she said.
The Edgewood in the Community event normally takes place over a day during Homecoming week in the fall and students travel to some 50 different sites to complete community service tasks.
This year, the 21st annual event took place over two days last week. Students worked one of the two days for about two hours. Some went to places where they could walk or took a bus to Forward and Lacy community gardens. Others stayed at school to complete projects such as making blankets and creating cards for others. Materials for completing projects also were provided to students who are continuing to learn online rather than returning to classrooms.
Lora Staveness, physical education and health teacher and varsity girls basketball coach, said the event is important to Edgewood’s mission.
“Obviously, one of our values, Sinsinawa Dominican values, is we are all about being servants, servants to the community and others,” she said. “If we are going to put that as one of our main pillars, we think it is important to take a day so the whole school can do it.”
In addition to the community service, the event is a chance for students to get to know others at a school that draws students from different neighborhoods and communities. The groups working on a particular project are multi-age and team-building activities are part of the schedule. This year the students talked about the challenges of building community during a pandemic, Staveness said.
“At the end of everything, we ask, what are the takeaways from today,” Staveness said. “Kids will make comments (like), ‘At some point you can’t do everything yourself, you have to rely on others.’”
Sophomore Amelia Cooper said she likes that the event allows her to meet new people in different grades. Last year she went to senior living apartments to help clean and enjoyed looking at a photo book that one of the residents showed to the students.
“It is a good idea to show the community you are supporting them and you are there when they need you,” said junior Cameron Fane, who transferred to Edgewood from a school in Dallas. “It’s the least we can do when our school is right in the neighborhood.”
John Hylkema, an Edgewood math teacher, said he likes getting to know students who are not in his classes. He hopes the event leads to students forming a “love of service” and usually there is discussion about everyone working toward a common goal.
“You could tell, everybody bought into that. For it to to be a good day, everyone needed to work together,” he said.
Staveness said a new twist to the event is added each time and this year students made cards for grandparents and other special adults in their lives.
“We don’t say it enough, how much people mean to us,” she said.
Shannon McDonough, Edgewood associate principal, said this year’s event was restricted by social distancing requirements and policies that are limiting visitors at various sites.
In a normal year, up to 30 school buses are lined up outside the high school to take students around town and to neighboring communities as far away as Edgerton to a bird rescue organization site. They work with seniors and young students and in places that provide services such as food distribution and hospice care. As part of the work, the students learn about the different sites when they arrive. Parents also take part as chaperones.
Afterward, the students watch a slide show of pictures taken that day and then go to a root beer float event put on by parents before participating in powder puff football games.