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Rossman Celebrates Centennial with Service Triathlon
By: Communications Manager Sarah Meyer
This week, the Rossman community celebrated the school’s 100th year with a Day of Service personifying the values Rossman has held close for a century. Students, faculty, staff and parent volunteers participated in the “Service Triathlon” supporting three non-profit organizations: Good Shepherd Children and Family Services in St. Louis, Operation Gratitude and Melissa’s Hope Orphanage and School in Haiti.
As part of Rossman’s character education program, students engage in a variety of community partnerships and programs each year, learning through service to local organizations such as Operation Food Search and the Humane Society. Organized by Rossman parent Barb Giljum, the Day of Service was an extension of these commitments and a rewarding way to honor the school’s century-long history of partnering with the community, promoting civic responsibility and developing strong character in young children.
To kick off the day, students, faculty, staff and volunteers gathered in the Pratt Performing Arts Center to learn about the men, women and children who would be benefitting from the day’s activities. After the introduction, the group split to begin the Service Triathlon.
Stage 1: Bedtime Bags for Foster Children
For Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, the Rossman community decorated more than 200 “bedtime bags.” Meant to bring comfort to children entering into foster care, the bags were filled with toys, blankets, books and other items that families donated in the weeks prior to the event. Participants also wrote letters of hope and encouragement to the foster children and heard from Rossman parent Anise Braggs about her family’s experience with Good Shepherd’s foster and adoption services.
Rossman’s partnership with Good Shepherd during its Centennial holds special meaning for the school. The organization, whose mission is to connect children with families and keep families connected, is based in University City, very near the location of the original Rossman campus.
At the end of the day, a Good Shepherd representative personally accepted the bedtime bag donations, which filled an entire van.
Stage 2: Letters for Service Members
For Operation Gratitude, the Rossman community wrote letters of appreciation to veterans and U.S. service members. Groups discussed the sacrifices these men and women make and the freedoms they help preserve. Older children helped younger children express their thankfulness, and by the end of the day, each student, faculty member, staff member and volunteer had contributed to the 4-inch stack of letters ready to accompany care packages filled with food, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items from Operation Gratitude. Filled with colorful drawings and thoughtful messages, the letters will undoubtedly help the organization’s goal to lift the spirits of the nation’s service members.
Stage 3: Bears for Orphans
Melissa’s Hope is located in an area of Haiti known for its severe flooding and poverty. In addition to caring for 20 orphans, half of whom have severe disabilities, the organization serves the community as a school for domestic servants and other poor children who would not otherwise receive an education, as well as a day camp for Haitian youth struggling to cope with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. For this organization, the Rossman community lovingly stuffed bears sewn by area women for the children who come to Melissa’s Hope for a home, a meal, safety, education, or an escape from the challenges of everyday life. Together, participants met Rossman’s goal to stuff 100 bears in honor of the school’s 100 years.
All in One Day
Following the Service Triathlon, participants returned to the Pratt Performing Arts Center. Though the impact of their Day of Service is immeasurable, they were able to view and reflect on the immediate, tangible results of their work — a 4-inch stack of letters, a box overflowing with bears, and a stage covered in bedtime bags. Children and adults alike were amazed and inspired by how much had been accomplished in just one day.
“The Centennial Day of Service was a wonderful opportunity to witness the Rossman community come together to serve three outstanding organizations while carrying out the Rossman values,” said event organizer Barb Giljum. “It was a pleasure to be part of a day that taught our children the needs of others in our own community as well as around the world, and just how much they can accomplish when they work together.”
Afterward, as the bedtime bags were loaded and children prepared to head home, the refrain through halls and classrooms was, “When can we do this again?”