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School Christmas activity

The boxes of donated items to four different charities during Advent are a testament to the generosity of the families at St. Paul School in Barton.
 
With only about 50 families, the school sends boxes of gifts to active soldiers, pet items to the local animal shelter, toys to the Toys for Tots program and food to the local food pantry.
 
“This is little Barton, and our families sacrifice to [send their children] here already. They are so thankful and somehow able to still be generous,” said Principal Joanne Beloin.
 
There are 68 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and 30 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
 
“A lot has been done for us at St. Paul’s or we wouldn’t still be here,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do to pass on that generosity and help others.”
 
The school community sends two boxes of toiletries, games, candy, writing material, socks and homemade cards to soldiers during Advent and another for Valentine’s Day.
 
“Our school as a whole really supports our vets,” Beloin said, and that support reaches to today’s soldiers.
 
“They support our country, and we want to honor them and support what they are doing for us,” said Jennifer Wilson, the third- and fourth-grade teacher as her students worked on a poppy-themed art project to send to veterans.
 
“It’s nice to do this. They are rising their lives for us,” Micha Sicard, 9, a third grader said of the boxes sent to soldiers.
 
Classmate Akira Conley, 8, said she likes collecting for the animal shelter because “God doesn’t want to see the animals starve because they’re His creation.”
 
Mara Royer, 13, an eighth grader, usually contributes to the Toys for Tots collection because she likes to help ensure a child’s happiness on Christmas morning. “You want to welcome Christ by being full of cheer, and you want everyone to be as happy as possible.”
 
Riley Perry, 13, also an eighth grader, said her family and school community model generosity for her: “It’s important to be generous because you can share happiness.”
 
“Giving is just as good as receiving,” Mara added. “It makes you happy deep down inside.”

--Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
 
  • Published in Schools

Modern-day Santa

St. Paul School in Barton gets $60,000 gift in honor of its 120th anniversary

A “modern-day Santa” made a stop at St. Paul School in Barton Dec. 14, but he didn’t deliver a big bag of toys to the 78 children in pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
 
Rather, he gave their school a big check: $60,000.
 
“I’ve been fortunate, and I give back to people who need it,” said developer and philanthropist Antonio Pomerleau after giving an oversized presentation check to St. Paul’s Principal Joanne Beloin and Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish that includes St. Paul Church in Barton.
 
Pomerleau was like a “modern-day Santa,” Beloin said. He “exuded a love of children,” she added, gesturing to make a connection to a picture of a happy Jesus with children. “His roots are here, and he is very tenderhearted about what Catholic education means to his family.”
 
Pomerleau’s brother and sister attended St. Paul School; the family moved to Newport in 1927 where he attended the former Sacred Heart School.
 
Now a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Burlington, the 99-year-old businessman made his donation as part of the school’s celebration of its 120th anniversary.
 
Earlier this year, a campaign began to raise $120 from each of 120 donors, and when Pomerleau learned of the fundraiser – which accepts donations of all amounts -- he pledged to match what was raised.
 
As of mid December, St. Paul’s had received about 90 of the specific $120 gifts.
 
Funds raised from the anniversary campaign will be used for the school’s endowment, scholarships, facilities, an outside play space, general programs and technology upgrades.
 
“The school thrives because of all the gifts we receive in time, talent, money and prayers,” Father Naples said, noting that Pomerleau’s donation was “notably the largest.”
 
Because of his challenge, “more people have decided happily to donate gifts of varying amounts” from $1.50 to $20,000,” he noted, expressing gratitude for every contribution to the continuing campaign.
 
“I’m edified and happy to see this position [Pomerleau] has as a donor where he gives out of generosity and gratitude, and he is conscious as a Catholic of the Lord’s goodness which enables him to do that and other people to do the work that he contributes to,” Father Naples said. “He uses his riches to serve the Kingdom of God.”
 
During his 30-minute visit to the school, Pomerleau greeted students in the cafeteria, listened to a song they sang for him, presented the check and posed for photographs.
 
He told the children to be diligent and never give up. He was not from a wealthy family and had to work hard; now he is able to contribute to various charities so he does. “I’ve had a lot of success in my life and just passed it on. You can’t take it with you,” he said after the presentation.
 
Pomerleau was pleased with the school. “I had no idea Barton had a [Catholic] school half as good as that,” he enthused. He was impressed with the children’s polite behavior, the cleanliness of the school and the kind way the children are treated.
 
Beloin said enrollment is growing at the school, which has 78 students – up 10 from last year. The next graduating class – with 15 members – will be the largest in recent history.
 
Teachers have a combined total of 250 years of teaching experience; she described them as knowledgeable, experienced, wise and loving. “They want to be here,” she said. “Great things are happening here.”
 
The principal – who acknowledged all the contributions the parish makes to the school -- hopes the momentum the 120th anniversary campaign has created will continue to ensure quality education in this rural area of Vermont.
 
Donations can be sent to St. Paul School, 54 Eastern Ave, Barton, VT 05822.
  • Published in Schools
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