Our Lady Star of the Sea School eight-graders Jolie Trice (left) and Maleah Smith sort through some of the more than 200 men's, women's and children's coats that were collected by their fellow students for Catholic Charities' Joseph's Coats of Many Colors. CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN
Our Lady Star of the Sea School eight-graders Jolie Trice (left) and Maleah Smith sort through some of the more than 200 men's, women's and children's coats that were collected by their fellow students for Catholic Charities' Joseph's Coats of Many Colors. CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN
Students at Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Solomons recently completed a two-month collection of winter coats to help keep others warm this winter.

Through the efforts of the students at the Southern Maryland school, more than 200 men’s, women’s and children’s coats were donated to Catholic Charities' Joseph's Coats of Many Colors drive on a day when temperatures in Calvert County did not rise above 25 degrees.

The coat drive – a collaboration between Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington's Catholic Schools Office – is an archdiocese-wide push to collect coats for men, women, and children. The clothing collected at Our Lady Star of the Sea was delivered to Catholic Charities’ offices in Prince Frederick.

“The coat drive is important to the students because they know not everyone is going to have a coat this winter,” said Sara Downs, a seventh-grade homeroom teacher and social studies teacher at the school. The school has 246 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade.

Downs is also the faculty advisor to Our Lady Star of the Sea’s student government, which coordinated the coat drive. Simultaneous with the coat drive, students at the school also conducted a food drive to stock the shelves of the Calvert County Service Makes Individual Life Exciting (SMILE) food bank.

Eighth-grader Jolie Trice said she enjoys not only benefitting charities, but also raising money for different causes as well as for her own school. “When you do this, you are better able to connect with the community,” she said.

“Everyone knows each other here,” she added. “The older kids act as role models for the younger kids. Together we will get a lot of coats to keep people warm.”

Each month, Our Lady Star of the Sea School picks a different charity to benefit, Downs said. “We focus on charity because we are a Catholic school,” she explained.

In the past, the school has assisted Project ECHO, a Calvert County ecumenical effort that provides the homeless of that county with temporary and emergency housing, and assists them in obtaining independent housing.

Students have also benefitted the Wounded Warrior project, an organization that provides services and offers programs and events for wounded military veterans and their families. Many members of the school and parish have family who work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

“We teach the students that they need to put others before themselves,” Downs said. “We tell them to serve with JOY ­– Jesus, Others, Yourself – in that order.”

Maleah Smith, an eighth grader and president of the student government, noted that participating in charitable efforts is one of the things she most enjoys about attending Our Lady Star of the Sea School.

"Sometimes it is very hard to talk about your faith, but going to a Catholic school encourages you to be stronger in your faith and to put it into action,” she said. She added that attending school Masses and participating in morning prayer have helped her “come out more to others about my Catholic faith.”

Downs said that when she sees the students participate in the varied service projects offered by the school, “It proves the world’s youth are not ‘me-me-me, self centered. They (the students) do what they do without seeking anything in return.”

“Because of our Catholic identity, we can teach our students to think about other people,” she said. “These kids don’t get a payback for doing good. They know it is the right thing to do. They feel good doing good.”