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By: Mr. Adler, Head of School

paulsplaceEach November, our Student Council asks our community to participate in a Thanksgiving Food Drive. Our seventh grade will deliver all of the collected items to Paul’s Place when they visit on November 25, where they will volunteer their time preparing and serving food as well as sorting clothing donations. Earlier in the school year, Jayna Powell, the volunteer coordinator for Paul’s Place, visited St. James to speak with our Middle School students about the “importance of giving.”

One of the key aspects about our community is the sense of giving. Parents, teachers and students come together to help others. We have so much to be thankful for, and I am very proud of our students for thinking of others who are less fortunate. I want to thank you for your contributions and volunteerism.

I would like to share with you an interview with Ms. Powell.

Tell us more about Paul’s Place.
Paul’s Place is a community Center in Washington Village/Pigtown. We are a catalyst for change, improving the quality of life in the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood. We provide programs (like a Computer Lab, hot meal, showers, laundry, GED classes, after school program, nurse’s clinic) that strengthen individuals and families.  We bring hope and foster personal dignity and growth.

What brought you to Paul’s Place and how have you seen the mission grow?
 I worked for many years with volunteers around the country and worked in places like Paul’s Place. Then, while I was on staff at habitat for Humanity, I saw all that Paul’s Place does. Once there was an opportunity to join the staff and work directly with their volunteers, I came running! Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen a growth in volunteers of all kinds, an increase in donations of clothing, food, holiday items and more. I’ve seen our mission embrace the need for more case management helping our guests get out of the cycle of poverty. And I’ve seen a greater focus on jobs and job placement. We have focused on the needs of our guests and truly responded and strengthened our programs because of what we have heard.

What would you like SJA students to walk away with having this experience with Paul’s Place?
 I’d like them to know that EVERY PENNY donated to Paul’s Place changes a life! EVERY MINUTE given as a volunteer impacts someone’s life. EVERY CAN OF FOOD fills a hungry stomach and gives hope. Anything you do to reach out to another makes a difference! Our guests are treated with dignity and respect by our volunteers like SJA kids and when they receive a hot meal or a bag of food or a new outfit, they are grateful. Your students contribute to that every time they choose to give to Paul’s Place!

Tell us about the “Faces of Hope” project.
For several months, Micah Powell, a McDaniel College graduate, came and took pictures of guests he met at Paul’s Place. He then collected their stories and has designed a photo exhibit of their faces. This exhibit tells the stories of 11 of our guests and helps you look into their eyes and connect with them. The photo exhibit helps us tell the world that we are about people…building relationships with people, and transforming people.

What advice can you give our students?
I think the best advice I can give is to look for ways you can make a difference in this world. We adults  haven’t always done a great  job with this world…and we need you to use your skills and your hearts and your hands to do what you can to make it a better place for others. I know you HAVE to do community service hours to graduate from high school. But my hope is that you find yourself WANTING to reach out to others because it’s the right thing to do. And because you become a better person when you do it. Smile at someone who is sad.  Stand up for someone who is bullied. Share food or clothes or money with someone who doesn’t have what you have. Spend some time in a place very different from where you live and meet someone, get to know them and discover that you aren’t all that different. By reaching out and building bridges, you can change this world!