Students give back

By Deborah Suddarth – Special to the Florida Catholic

With the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic, students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton have had to social distance physically, but their hearts have remained united in Catholic Social Teachings through works of charity.

With the largest Food Pantry in Manatee County located next to St. Joseph Church, the students are aware of the approximately 125 volunteers who serve their community by distributing food to those in need.  Among these volunteers are some of their parents. Throughout the year students have collected food items and during the colder months donated blankets.

Recently, Sienna Bell, president of the St. Joseph Builders Club, and Connor Longo, president of the St. Joseph K-Kids, decided to join forces to collect items for Blessing Bags for the homeless. They collected items often needed by the homeless who come to the Food Pantry, and for those who are seen on the streets when their families travel through the Manatee County area.

Students and families donated bottles of water, socks, small snacks (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix), personal sized toiletries, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, gum, small packages of tissues, and disposable razors. K-Kids and Builders Club members safely packaged these items to be distributed to the homeless, under the direction of Kiwanis Club sponsors. The idea of a blessing bag is that it will last the receiver for at least a few days and is packaged by those who care.

K-Kids and Builders Club members take Blessing Bags with them to distribute as they travel with their families. They wanted to have the bags in their cars to be ready if they see someone in need. Bags were also delivered to the St. Joseph Food Pantry for distribution to their homeless clients.

When the students were asked by a food pantry volunteer, “What do you think of when you see a homeless person?”  Connor Longo responded, “First, I feel sad that something has happened to them and they are now on the street.  I also realize that they do not have family and friends to help them.  Some of them may be ill. I know we are all part of God’s family and I want to help them and hope they know that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Deborah Suddarth is the Principal of St. Joseph Catholic School and can be reach at