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Good Shepherd students make lunches for poor, homeless

new 09 Good Shep PAGEGood Shepherd students pack food for lunches for Society of St. Vincent de Paul clients. (Photo by Valerie Schmalz/Catholic San Francisco)

March 23, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

Each Friday of the school year, students at Good Shepherd School make 120 lunches for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo homeless center in South San Francisco – a routine that began 16 years ago.

Last week, it was the seventh grade and the first graders who made and packed the lunches into specially decorated brown lunch bags for the clients of the North County Homeless Help Center on Grand Avenue. “Each class takes a turn,” said seventh grader Xavier Kendall-Protacio, so that during the course of a month each grade helps make lunches.

“The guests love them,” said Lisa Collins, director of the center, which is open 10 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturdays. The decorated bags are perhaps even more of a hit than the lunches, distributed on Fridays so the guests have food over the weekend, she said. “People actually even save the bags with the drawings,” Collins said.

“It’s great. It’s nice to do that. Thank you so much. It’s nice for everyone,” said Rosanda Bauzon, waiting in line on St. Patrick’s Day for lunch at the Grand Avenue center. Her pal, Linda Martinez, who is living in temporary housing with her adult son, added, “I think it’s nice for the young kids to do that. It gives them a little job to do.”

The Good Shepherd lunch project began when parent Barbara Rozzano was working at Costco and saw day-old bakery items going to waste. Her oldest, now 26, was a student at the time. Today she has a child who is a freshman at Sacred Heart Cathedral, and a fifth and a seventh grader at Good Shepherd. Rozzano’s enthusiasm shows no signs of flagging.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic lay organization, inspired by Gospel values, which leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul, according to its mission statement on the national website. At Good Shepherd, in addition to the school work with SVdP, there is an active parish society, said parent Scott Buskey.

“They give us whatever stuff they have (at Costco),” Rozzano said. “Some days we have more; some days we have less. We try to fill in. We do purchase a lot. We bought a freezer to keep things in.”

The school parents and children contribute about $400 a month in bags, plastic bags, salami for sandwiches, and other odds and ends, said third-grade parent Buskey. Each year the students hold a Penny Power fundraiser, he said.

The routine begins at 8 a.m., with the older of the two grades working that week coming in to make sandwiches and pack muffins and cookies in plastic bags. Then the younger grade comes through, putting the items into lunch bags. If, as was the case last week, the school is closed on Friday, they make lunches on an earlier day.

The students decorate the paper lunch bags each week as part of their religion grade, Rozzano said. “The big kids pray in the beginning, before they start, and the little kids pray over the lunches at the end,” Rozzano said. And somehow, the whole job is done by 9 a.m., she said.

“They are helping the community as well as learning there are less fortunate people,” said Rozzano. “We need to help everyone we can.”

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