In my childhood I went to public schools – and good ones, at that. I am grateful for the education that I received. But I do still remember some of its negative aspects also. (There really weren’t many.)
One of the negatives was the overall “drabness” of our school library in my elementary school. I remember, even as a fourth or fifth grader, thinking that it was a depressing place that did not inspire learning. It was a typical 1950s construction (low-lying brick structure with large aluminum-frame windows, painted concrete block walls inside). The library, if I recall correctly, had a lot of that certain shade of yellow/gold that was popular back when the place was built. It was just very institutional.
Fortunately, in spite of whatever small negative elements there were, I did develop a love of learning that remains with me to this day.
This same outcome is what we want for the youth who live near my smaller parish, Holy Rosary. They live in one of the most afflicted neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama. The public schools in the area have not always had the highest ratings. We have encountered children who – even in third or fourth grade, and receiving decent grades on their report cards – had extremely low or nearly non-existent levels of literacy. These children often come from irregular family situations and poverty. Some have never really been read to. And in the face of this, our local situation, we want to make a difference.
Thus, thanks to the inspiration of a certain special lady and the great help of many parishioners, friends, and other members of our community, we have started a new apostolate, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center – named for the first canonized American-born saint and founder of Catholic schools in our country, who also had a religious order that served the poor. The Center just opened this past week. It consists of two rooms and a bathroom in an existing building on our campus, which we renovated so that the youth will have a good place to do homework and read. And there are no concrete block walls or harvest gold drapes. Much to the contrary. Take a look:
The initial reaction – having only been open for two days – has been outstanding. The kids love it. I think it will not be long before we will have really outgrown the space (and I have plans for addressing that down the line)!
We have an enthusiastic and well-qualified Center coordinator and a great beginning team of volunteers. I know we will have no problem continuing to grow our volunteer team. We have also gotten enormous donations of books and have a whole store room filled with them now, enabling us not only to rotate the selections that we keep out for the children, but also send books home with them so that the reading and learning can continue there.
Many people have very generously donated as well to make this room a reality. But this is where we are still coming up a bit short. We still need $4,232.92 to finish paying the bills for things as they currently stand. Not that I haven’t paid our bills – I have. But I have had to borrow funds from other areas to do so!
God has provided marvelously for this project thus far, and I know that our total need will be met. Indeed, I am confident it will be more than met, so that we will have some reserves on hand for our ongoing expenses and future needs as well. (Incidentally, the annual budget for the Center is extremely low, consisting mostly of office and cleaning supplies. Most of our expenses have been from renovation and decorating costs.)
If you feel moved to help us bridge this financial gap, you can donate online using PayPal (click the button below):
Or you can write a check to “Holy Rosary Church” with “Learning Center” in the memo and mail it to:
Holy Rosary Church
Attn: SEAS Learning Center
P.O. Box 321576
Birmingham, AL 35232-1576
Holy Rosary Church is a parish of the Diocese of Birmingham Alabama, and gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowed by applicable State and Federal laws. Donors will receive a letter for tax purposes.
AS OF September 26, 2015 at 4:00pm CDT:
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Thank you for your support, and above all, thank you for your prayers! The Lord is doing a beautiful work in our midst and I pray that the children who pass through our doors will indeed develop a love of reading and learning, and have a brighter future as a result.