Students from Wyoming Area Catholic School empty their ark-shaped banks into collection buckets in an effort to fight hunger in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“Kindness is Contagious”
Wyoming Area Catholic School donates money to C.E.O. as part of pilot project

EXETER – When 150 students leave their classroom and head outdoors in late May – you would expect a lot of noise. The sound coming from the kids at Wyoming Area Catholic School on May 27, 2021, did not involve talking or joking around however.

The sound of coins – quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies – rattling around loudly filled a large tent on the school’s front lawn.

“That’s inspirational,” Rabbi Yossi Schulman told the students during a special presentation celebrating the school’s ARK Charity Program. “ARK” stands for Acts of Random Kindness.

As part of a pilot program, each student received a small plastic bank in the shape of an ark. The students collected money outside of school whenever they performed a selfless act. The kids brought the money to school and counted it weekly to highlight the power of collective giving.

The students chose to donate all of the money to the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO), which helps to fight food insecurity in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Students from Wyoming Area Catholic School raise plastic banks on May 27, 2021, and shake them to highlight the coins they collected as part of the schools ARK Charity Project. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

“I would hold the door open for people in the morning and when I’m at my house, my grandma would ask me to carry the bags and I would usually do it,” 10-year-old Cayden Richards said.

“I helped my mom with the laundry,” 10-year-old Julianna O’Hop added.

Rabbi Schulman, president of the Unite
the World organization, asked the Diocese of Scranton if one of its schools would participate in the pilot project and Wyoming Area Catholic School was selected.

“You have done such a phenomenal job,” principal Eileen Rishcoff told the students as the students and community members gathered to celebrate the project’s success.

Gretchen Hunt, Resource Development Director for C.E.O., called the students an “inspiration.”

“You’ve turned not just yourselves, but your whole family and your extended family into givers in demonstrating acts of kindness every day,” Hunt said.

Hunt explained that the funding the students collected will help children who don’t have enough food to eat at home.

“A lot of times, hunger, especially in families with children goes unseen,” she added. “It could be the kid sitting next to you in class, it could be the family that lives down the street that you play with after school and we don’t see it unless somebody tells you and that’s a hard thing to tell somebody when you’re struggling because you’re hungry.”

Students enjoyed taking part in the project.

“I love the fact that my school was given the opportunity to do this and help out our community and other people in need,” 12-year-old Isabella Falzone said. “This has just been a great opportunity for me to grow in my faith and really learn valuable life lessons about donating time and money and doing little acts of kindness.”

“I was really inspired and I thought it was really cool that our school was able to donate so much money in that short period of time that we had to do it,” O’Hop added. “It makes me feel really good that our school can raise so much money and that every kid in the school knows how important it is to raise money for other people.”

Part of the reason why the students had such fun with the project was because Wyoming Area Catholic School built a large ark, resembling Noah’s Ark, out of boxes. For every $5 donated, students got to color a picture of an animal and stick it to the ark. In no time, the ark was covered in lions, zebras, koalas, monkeys and alligators, among other animals.

On the day of the school presentation, the school donated a $2,000 check to C.E.O. to signify the students’ collection up until that point. By the end of the year, the school raised more than $5,000 total.

“Looking out at you today is perhaps one of the greatest inspirations I’ve seen in a very long time. You are our future! You are so inspiring to me personally, to our community, because of the way you grasped this project. You built the ark, you collected coins and money in such a short period of time, you understand the idea of giving back. Please never forget that. It is our responsibility to look out for others because if we don’t do it, who will?” Charles Barber, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Luzerne Foundation, told the students.

As the program wrapped up and each student deposited their coins in buckets to be tallied, one overriding theme became apparent. Rabbi Schulman emphasized it.

“Kindness is contagious,” he said.