More than 50 members of the St. Mary's High School community, including members of the student senate, faculty, staff and parents, spent a recent Saturday morning on the West Side of Buffalo cleaning and furnishing a home for a refugee family.
Working in cooperation with Journey's End, an organization that welcomes refugees and provides them with a variety of services as they arrive in Buffalo, students scrubbed the house from top to bottom, put furniture and other household items in all the rooms, hung curtains, constructed beds, and prepared the house so that the guest family will feel welcome and at home.
Lynn Tytka, co-moderator of the student senate, said working with Journey's End was a perfect opportunity for the school to reach out in service to the community.
"Every year, the student senate does a service project," Tytka said. "This year, one of our seniors suggested Journey's End because she had worked with them in the past."
The service project began before Christmas as the whole school contributed helpful items to furnish the house. This included furniture, cribs, strollers, dishware, toiletry, drapery and more. Students waited for Journey's End to find a house on which to work. The school senate was notified early in February that a house was found.
Students, moderators and families gathered at St. Mary's to load all the donated items into vehicles for the trip to the city.
Students were assigned different tasks throughout the house including removing items left by the previous residents, cleaning all the rooms, shoveling all the entrance ways, and bringing in and setting up all the donated items. Once everything was in place, students made a sign to welcome the family to their new home.
"It was great that we can make such a difference in the lives of other people," said senior Kayla Murphy, the student who recommended the Journey's End project to the student senate. "It's great that we can get everyone at St. Mary's involved - the students, the teachers, the alumni."
Murphy was happy so many people showed up to help. She said it was amazing how much was donated.
"I think this project also opens the eyes of the students, to bring them back down to earth," Murphy said. "Many of us have never seen a house like this, to have tires and boards spread all over the place. It was nice that we could make it nice to, I know it sounds like a cliché, to turn a house into a home."
Tytka said the entire project went very well.
"The students were very interested in helping," Tytka said. "They showed a lot of compassion for this family, wanting to make the house a home and make them feel welcome."
"It was great to go out into our own community to help someone coming to Buffalo, to make them feel welcome," said Austin Klink, president of the student senate. "It was great that the whole school was involved with this project, from donating items to actually going there to prepare the house. I hope that more people will be involved in a project like this in the future, to see from start to finish how we can help people."
Junior Kendra Ciezki described the project as awesome.
"Instead of just donating items, we had the chance to see the change from an empty house to a livable home," Ciezki said. "I wish we could do more projects like this, to spend a little time to directly help a family."