PLAIN TWP.  Students from St. Michael’s School collected close to $5,000 in change through the month of October, while St. Michael’s parish collected another $2,000 in fundraising for the Frist Step project for Change for Catholic Charities.

The project is a diocesan-wide initiative to collect money in baby bottles for low-income pregnant women and families to purchase baby formula, diapers, and other baby supplies. It was also meant to raise awareness for Respect for Life Month.

In addition to collecting change, St. Michael's 7th- and 8th-grade volleyball team worked with coaches Mary Compton and Kerri Salvino to create handmade blankets for the Hispanic immigrant population of St. Anthony parish in Canton.

"We held an assembly to bring all the students together and talked about the needs of families and our kids were really touched by the how families needed help buying food, formula, diapers, baby wipes, clothing and other items babies and young children need," said St. Michael School Principal Claire Gatti. "The kids were all ready to help. They were each given a baby bottle to represent the babies in need and they were asked to fill up the bottles with change. We thought the first two weeks of October would bring in the most filled bottles, but the kids kept filling bottles straight through the end of the month."

St. Michaels School has 400 students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Jeff Fricker, Vicki Crisp and Geri Lane from St. Michael School were instrumental in putting the First Step Program together. The collection was done in the parish last year, but this was the first year the school was involved in the fundraiser.

Fricker said the money will go to the local Catholic Charities office to be distributed to those families in the area that are need.

"The downtown office is very excited about the amount of money that was raised through the baby bottle collections," Fricker said.

Gatti said kids collected change from around their homes and from their families. She said the real story is how the kids at the school and their parents gave up change to help other children who don’t have the fundamental items they need.

"The outcome of the fundraiser has been tremendous, and I give the credit to our parents and our students. It really warms the hearts of the administration, the faculty, people in the parish and the people in the parish offices to know how many children will be helped with the $7,000," Gatti said.

President of Holy Cross Academy Jackie Zufall said that Respect Life Month is observed by all the parishes in the Youngstown Diocese throughout the month of October. She said the schools and the parishes do the collections to support respecting life and helping young mothers and babies.

The 7th- and 8th-grade girls volleyball teams also got involved in making blankets for families in need from the St. Anthony parish. Salvino said one of the team members read a notice in the St. Michael’s Parish bulletin that the Hispanic population at St. Anthony were in need of blankets and that parish was holding a blanket collection.

"All of the girls on the team wanted to help so we cut one of our practices short and got some fleece material and other items we needed to make the blankets," Salvino said. "Within a couple of hours, we had 10 blankets made and ready to deliver to St. Anthony’s. The blankets are super warm, and each player made a unique blanket. Some were plaid, some had polka dots. The different blankets will appeal to men or women or children."

Gatti said its part of the Catholic Schools curriculum to teach service to others and to help others in need. She said the First Step to Change Project and the amount of money collected is reflective of what the students have learned.