St. James School fourth-graders Aiden Leighton, left, and Zackary Namiotka hang bags containing hats, gloves, scarves and other winter wear items on the fence surrounding the city park at the corner of South and Green streets in Biddeford on Tuesday afternoon. More than a dozen students from the school left the items for anyone in need of them in an 'act of service' on 'Giving Tuesday.

St. James School fourth-graders Aiden Leighton, left, and Zackary Namiotka hang bags containing hats, gloves, scarves and other winter wear items on the fence surrounding the city park at the corner of South and Green streets in Biddeford on Tuesday afternoon. More than a dozen students from the school left the items for anyone in need of them in an ‘act of service’ on ‘Giving Tuesday.” ED PIERCE/JournalTribune

BIDDEFORD — Whether they know it or not, more than a dozen students at St. James Catholic School in Biddeford became part of an international movement on Tuesday through a simple act of generosity in a city park.     

Hundreds of winter wear items were left in a park in Biddeford on Tuesday by students at St. James School in an 'act of service' and in the spirit of the season of Advent to show love and kindness to those in need as winter approaches. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Hundreds of winter wear items were left in a park in Biddeford on Tuesday by students at St. James School in an ‘act of service’ and in the spirit of the season of Advent to show love and kindness to those in need as winter approaches. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

On “Giving Tuesday,” a day now set aside globally as an opportunity to help others through the gift of time, donations, goods or voice, the students braved the cold in the afternoon after school to leave hats, mittens, and scarves donated by members of the St. James community at the city park on the corner of South and Green streets in Biddeford.

St. James School Principal Nancy Naimey accompanied the students to the park and said the children left the items there in an act of service and in the spirit of the season of Advent to show love and kindness to those in need as winter approaches.

“This has become an annual event for our students and everyone that’s out here today asked to do this,” Naimey said.   

Some of the winter wear items collected by the school were put in plastic bags with a decorative ribbon and hung from the fence or left on benches at the park.

Naimey said that a tag was put inside each bag so that those receiving the items are aware that they were left by the children of St. James School. 

Aiden Leighton, 9, a fourth-grader at St. James, said he wanted to help distribute the winter wear because it made him feel good inside.

“I think it is a nice gesture to put hats out on the fence for anybody who wants them,” he said. “It’s not much, but it’s our way of giving back to help others.”

Estelle Beauchense, St. James third-grade teacher, said that this was the second time she’s gone with students on “Giving Tuesday” to distribute items at the park.

“Some of the children out here today have never done this before and others have done it multiple times,” Beauchesne said. “They know that it’s helping poor members of our community and they love doing it.”

Fifth-grader Camryn Houle, 10, said she had fun hanging items and bags on the park fence, but was keenly aware that those less fortunate will benefit from the hats and gloves and other items this winter.

“It’s very important to someone who might not have hats or gloves and I’m happy we are able to do this for them,” she said.

Madison Ham, a sixth-grader, was particpating in the event for the first time after moving to Maine from Florida earlier this year.

“It’s a good thing that people care for other people,” Houle said. “And I wanted to do something to help others who might not have these items and really need them.”

According to Naimey, in past years the donated items are typically gone by the following day, but if anything still remains in the park by next week, they will be collected and donated to the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center in Biddeford.

She said that the students’ act of service is part of St. James School’s “Casual for a Cause” initiative, in which the school’s student council chooses a worthy charity to donate to each month. If a student donates to the cause, they are allowed to dress casually on the second Friday of each month.

Past donations have gone to help with the creation of Thanksgiving baskets for the poor, contributed to the charitable works of the Sisters of Mercy, provided assistance at local food pantries, and lended a hand to other charitable groups.

Sophie Blanchette, a fourth-grader, and her classmate Olivia Frederickson, both 9, said they were happy to help with the project.

“It’s not only fun, it makes you grateful to be able to help others,” Blanchette said.

Frederickson agreed.

“It’s nice to put hats on the fence, but it’s even nicer to know that someone who needs a hat can find one out here and that it was left by our school for them,” she said.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected]


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