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From left, Ellie Green, Mia Gehl, Josie Green and Cody Lynch serve meals at the Dubuque Rescue Mission.

A group of students from the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Matthew 25 service group helped serve food at the Dubuque Rescue Mission, Sept. 5. This is the program’s second year of existence and the first year it has been extended to include high school students. Gina Hemmer, an Aquin teacher in charge of Matthew 25, said she felt it was important for students to become active through deeds of service to show the students the human side of charity beyond donations.

“As I was organizing plans for Matthew 25 service opportunities, I really wanted to incorporate activities that would allow our students to have more of a connection with those in need. I wanted them to see those whom they were helping — a human connection. So often, people help out with needs by donating financially or with goods. This generosity is wonderful and is a tremendous strength in our community, but I believe that students cannot fully understand the need of others or the impact they can make without seeing it for themselves.”

Hemmer chose the Dubuque Rescue Mission as one of the possible service locations for students to choose from in order to provide them with the experience of need in larger communities outside of Cascade.

“In a small community such as Cascade, it can sometimes be difficult for students to recognize the true need that exists and is more prevalent in larger communities because it is less visible in our own community. That was why I felt that the Dubuque Rescue Mission would be a worthy place for our service. Our students can see that we are helping fellow human beings who have fallen on hard times and need our support, not only financially, but also spiritually. A friendly smile is just as valuable as money. Each time I have visited there, those who have come for a meal are always so grateful, and that makes me feel even more motivated to do what I can to help. I want our students to have that same feeling, and it can only happen by making those human connections.”

Two high school students who took part, Ellie Green and Mia Gehl, said the experience was eye-opening for them because it exposed them to people who were in great need of things they themselves took for granted.

“For confirmation, we need outreach service hours,” said Green. “This year there was an opportunity to serve food at the missions in Dubuque. Being able to do that was eye-opening for us and it can be for other students too. I don’t think it’s just a service opportunity, I think it’s about realizing how lucky you are to have something. Talking to these people is interesting because they aren’t the same as us. We take a lot of things for granted, but they don’t have as much as we have. Us being able to do this makes us further realize that we should be grateful for what we have. It’s an eye-opener when you see what these people are going through that you’ve never witnessed.”

“It was such a neat experience,” added Gehl. “A lot of people didn’t go but I thought it was quite a few people who came. We helped prepare the food and it was nice to see how they do it.”

While serving at the Dubuque Rescue Mission was Green and Gehl’s first round of service for the year, they expressed great interest in returning once a month due to a sense of fulfillment it gave them.

“After going once, I want to go back and help them again,” said Green. “I want to be able to help more people now because, after seeing what they go through, I want to help more than just those people. I think other people should join in so they can see what happens outside of their world.”