Students lend their time to St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store and other charitable causes throughout the community


“Volunteer Opportunity.”

Those were the simple words that Principal Steve Passinault’s schoolwide email bore in its subject line, and those were the words that caught the eye of a small group of generous students looking to lend their time to a good cause.

“The whole volunteer thing– I’m always up to it,” said junior Yashmeet Kaur, who eagerly seized the opportunity. “I think it’s just a good feeling to give back to others.”

Thus, Yashmeet and several other students spent last Saturday morning at St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store, transforming the upstairs mattress storage room into a festive “winter wonderland.”

After accumulating Christmas donations of all sorts through the year, St. Vincent assembles a Christmas-centric store for low-income families just in time for the holidays. So, FHC students’ job was to provide some aid in setting up the store before its annual opening, sorting through merchandise, shelving products, and more.

“It felt great knowing how helpful we were for them, and the work was more fun than difficult,” said junior Nicole Aquino, who is active in the FHC volunteering scene.

Within three hours, the store was almost entirely set up, and the volunteers were able to leave with the comforting satisfaction of service work.

Saturday’s volunteer work was facilitated entirely by Passinault and Lori Martin. In fact, the two organize volunteer events for FHC students about once a month, ranging from stuffing backpacks with school supplies to events via Kid’s Food Basket.

Providing these outlets for students is very important to Passinault, and he hopes to ingrain the values of integrity and selflessness that service work so tangibly demonstrates.

“I believe that we have an obligation to help others who are less fortunate and in need in our world,” Passinault said. “It is my hope that students make this a part of their lives beyond their high school years or service hour requirements.

Junior Katie Willemin has been an avid participator in all that Passinault and Martin have offered to students. She first was introduced to these events through Nicole, who has taken part in virtually every volunteer offer provided by the school.

“The first time I did it was Kid’s Food Basket, and I just– I love Kid’s Food Basket,” Katie said.  “Nicole had told me about it, so I did it. Then she kept telling me other things that they did, and I thought it was so cool.”

For students like Katie, volunteering is a simple and obvious use of time.

“If I have more than other people do,” Katie said, “I should give some of it back.”

Conflicting schedules always coincided with the volunteer events, so Yashmeet was excited when she was finally able to participate this past Saturday. She, too, is passionate about volunteer work and its eye-opening quality.

“I think volunteering’s nice [because] it allows you to see different places and perspectives,” Yashmeet said.

These volunteer opportunities have greatly impacted the community. One such event at the end of last school year was when Passinault and a group of students- including Katie and Nicole- hosted a hot dog cookout at Heartside Park for homeless people in the downtown area. They generously served the community, and those who were involved were moved by the weight of their service.

“We served over 300 hot dogs that day and, more importantly, were able to bring happiness to a group of people who don’t have the same privileges that we enjoy,” Passinault said. “They were very grateful.”

Katie, too, found the experience to be gratifying and meaningful.

“It was really cool,” Katie said. “You could directly see the people you were affecting. The other [volunteer events] were like packing stuff and then shipping it off or [setting up] the store, but this one you could see the actual people you were helping. That was cool.”

Indeed, the impact of FHC’s service work will continue to reach all veins of the community. As for the Christmas store in the upstairs mattress room of St. Vincent’s, all that’s left until its opening is some festive decorating. Students have the opportunity to return to aid in doing so on Nov. 3.

And in fitting Ranger spirit, more service events will continue to be provided, publicized, and encouraged.

“Realizing that joy comes out of helping others and treating others with respect and dignity is just the right thing to do,” Passinault said.