Students from Our Lady Queen of Peace School’s House of St. Vincent de Paul, part of the school’s Houses of Faith Program, visit the food pantry at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) in Madison as part of the “Feed My Sheep” Lenten program, along with youth ministers from other participating parishes.
MADISON -- John and Sarah Ramthun are all about T-shirts. Actually, they are all about a particular T-shirt that is making a statement and helping raise money for a program near and dear to their hearts called “Feed My Sheep.”
The T-shirt reads, “My Shirt Fed 50 Kids. What did yours do?” The shirts cost $25 and sponsor 50 meals each to feed the hungry.
Buying T-shirts is just one way people can support the program. Cash donations are encouraged as well as volunteering to put the meals together on March 3 at the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison.
It has been a great way for adults and kids to get involved in a project to serve the hungry in local neighborhoods and worldwide, according to 6:8 Directors John and Sarah Ramthun.
The program was initiated by the Ramthuns as a Lenten project for 6:8 — Making Service Personal — the not-for-profit organization they started six years ago after working for several years in youth ministry.
They gained momentum in fundraising when they asked some Madison-area Catholic parishes to help raise awareness for the “Feed My Sheep” initiative.
The official kick-off for fundraising and selling T-shirts for the “Feed My Sheep” Program began on January 18. The project was in the planning stages since June when John and his wife Sarah got together with a group of Madison area catechists with whom they have networked for many years and introduced the idea of this Lenten project.
These catechists include youth ministers from seven Madison- area parishes and they took the idea back to their parishes and got word out about the project.
Parishes get involved
Sarah and John came up with the name “Feed My Sheep” from a group in Minneapolis, but used the Kids Against Hunger organization in Janesville (which they have worked with for many years) to provide the raw materials and packaging for the meals.
The parishes participating in “Feed My Sheep” include Our Lady Queen of Peace, St. Maria Goretti, and St. Thomas Aquinas in Madison; St. Bernard in Middleton; St. Francis Xavier in Cross Plains; St. Martin of Tours in Martinsville; and St. Peter in Ashton.
Joe Rausch, youth minister at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, introduced the idea of the catchy-phrased T-shirt and hosted the kick-off dinner in January. He had been at a youth conference and saw a T-shirt with a similar concept. He brought the idea back to the other youth ministers who quickly supported the shirt design and sale for the project, he said.
Rausch has known Sarah and John since they were youth ministers at St. Aloysius Parish in Sauk City and he is excited about the scope of this project. “This is not just a youth project, but a great way to work cross parish and get lots of networking going,” he said.
Response is overwhelming
“Seeing the church clusters coming together for this project was very exciting,” Sarah said in an interview in early February when the initial goal of funding 25,000 meals was reached early. 6:8 then decided to raise the bar higher and put the goal at 50,000 meals.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she added, “not only in shirt sales and cash donations, but also in the number of volunteers coming forward to help.”
‘Feed My Sheep’ meals
Each meal costs 25 cents and one bag contains six meals. The meals consist of four ingredients: rice, soy, dried vegetables, and a vitamin/mineral flavoring that reverses the effects of starvation.
Meals will be distributed in Madison and through parish connections. One requirement for sponsoring the program was that the meals go to places where the parishes have done mission work or have a connection to people in need.
Children in some parishes were given the opportunity to have a visual and personal involvement in feeding the hungry.
At Queen of Peace School, for example, there was a competition involving all classes to see which could raise the most money, said Youth Minister Cheryl Horne.
The winning classroom was rewarded with a pizza party and the pizza was delivered by their Principal Bob Abshire — in none other than a sheep costume. The pizza party was held on Valentine’s Day, and it was about “sharing the love,” Horne explained.
The competition brought in $3,300 from all classes.
Horne said the Lenten project has been a wonderful collaboration and as representatives of many parishes come together, “we can have a far-reaching impact.”
For example, since the participating parishes can choose where the meals go, Our Lady Queen of Peace parishioner Jo Gill, who is accompanying a couple to Haiti to adopt a child, has requested to take food to the Haitian family.
“It is an opportunity for many people to help. The whole project is sprouting wings,“ said Horne.
The Ramthuns are calling this “Feed My Sheep” Program a pilot year. “We will assess this year’s results and determine where we take it from here,” John Ramthun said.
To get involved in this project or learn more about 6:8, go to www.MakingServicePersonal.org