Westfield youth group holds fundraiser for homeless teens
Story and photo by Carolee McGrath
WESTFIELD – The youth group from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Westfield held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit homeless teens on Saturday, June 21. Members of the JP II Crew youth group helped make and serve the dinner at the parish hall, located next to the church on Holyoke Road, here. The parish’s contemporary teen music group, Psalm 33, performed during the event.
All proceeds will go to the KINSHIP FUND, which helps homeless students at Westfield High School.
“There’s anywhere from 15 to 20 homeless kids in Westfield every year. Sometimes kids have to leave their homes and their families in really dire situations,” said Lisa Laferriere, youth group coordinator. “They don’t have a toothbrush or a hairbrush, no shoes or boots, or coats in the winter. It gives them the things we take for granted.”
Laferriere said when the youth group found out about the problem, they wanted to help.
“Especially with Pope Francis making everything so obvious these days, it’s easy to want to send money to far off countries, but charity starts at home,” Laferriere said. “For us to be able to donate to kids that these kids go to school with and are friends with is so important.”
“I think they’re realizing that the world is bigger than just our parish and they need to help other kids,” she said. “It’s what Christ wants us to do. It’s what the pope is asking us to do.”
Close to 200 people attended the event, many of them walking over after the 4 p.m. Mass. Father Daniel S. Pacholec, pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, gave the blessing before the meal.
“Our youth group has been really growing,” said Father Pacholec. “They’re called the JPII Crew (and are) dedicated to John Paul II. It’s only a year and a half old and they’ve come together beautifully.”
“They’re wonderful young people. They’re comprised of middle school and high school kids,” Father Pacholec explained. “That just amazes me, that they’re off to such a great foundation of faith. Hopefully, they’ll carry that throughout their lives.”
Seventeen-year-old Sara Miller sings with Psalm 33 and is also a member of the JP II Crew. She attends Westfield High School and will be a senior in the fall.
“There are a lot of kids that go to our school that are homeless and you might not even know it,” Miller said. “That’s what we figured out. We wanted to raise money for them.”
“It’s very hard to show people you don’t have a home,” said miller. “I’m really fortunate. I have a great family and everything.”
Psalm 33 spent many hours rehearsing before the concert. They sang songs that they also do for their monthly teen Mass, including “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Breathe.”
“I sing music that shows my love for Jesus,” said Miller. “A lot of people, they said Psalm 33’s music inspires them, so we decided it would be a good idea to sing.”
The goal of the youth group was to raise $1,000.
For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS