Photo provided - (From left to right) Immaculate Conception Catholic School students Jay Patel, Averi Potter, Ariana Gonzalez, Brynley Brookens, Marcos Chacon, and Liam Burkey, hold up a check showing how much Immaculate Conception Catholic School will be sending to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. Students and staff from the school donated $1,002.01 as part of a “Pennies For Hope” fundraising effort that occurred from mid-January through mid-February.Photo provided - Immaculate Conception Catholic School student Lincoln Burkey (left) donated over $80 of his own money toward the “Pennies For Hope” campaign for those affected by the Kentucky tornadoes in December. Teacher Lisa Szydlowski (right) helped to count out his contribution.

Immaculate Conception School helps survivors of Kentucky tornadoes

“Pennies for Hope” raises over $1,000 for relief efforts

THREE RIVERS — Service to the community is one of the pillars of learning at Immaculate Conception Catholic School, but a recent fundraising drive showed that service can extend beyond the community to places outside of St. Joseph County.

From mid-January through mid-February of this year, students at the school raised money for those affected by the tornadoes that hit Kentucky back on Dec. 10, 2021 in something they called “Pennies for Hope.” Students and staff were encouraged to donate loose change and extra money, all in all raising $1,002.01 for the effort.

“The children at Immaculate Conception are an inspiration with their big, generous hearts and positive attitudes,” Immaculate Conception Principal Sharon Voege said in a release.

The money raised will be going to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, a fund through the Kentucky’s government created specifically to assist those impacted.

Voege said in an interview the initiative came about as one of the school’s monthly service projects. She said the students had talked about what was going on with the tornadoes in class when it happened and how it affected people there. Collectively, students and staff came up with the idea to raise funds for those affected.

“The kids were concerned about that, and so we said, ‘what could we do?’” Voege said. “They asked if we could send them money and help them. So, we organized the Pennies for Hope.”

Voege said the money will be sent very soon to the fund, which she said will go directly to the people impacted with no administrative costs taken out.

“That’s why we chose this particular charity. There are other charities out there to help them, but this was specific,” Voege said. “It can help them with living expenses, if they lost their home, day-to-day needs or help rebuilding. It’s to try to get them through so that they’re able to live until they can rebuild and do those types of things.”

Although every class in the school were happy to donate, with one seventh-grader at one point donating $80 of their money to the cause, there was a little bit of an in-building competition occurring to see which class could raise the most money. Voege said the upper elementary classes donated the most, earning them a uniform holiday and pizza party. However, while it was fun to get all that, in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t compare to generously giving to a good cause.

“That’s what some of the kids said. It’s not about who collects the most, it doesn’t matter who wins, we’re helping others,” Voege said.

Overall, Voege said she was proud of the students and how they responded to help people in a faraway state.

“It warmed my heart when the kids were bringing in, sometimes, their whole wallet of money. There were kids who were bringing in their own money, saying, ‘I need to help them,’ and it just warms your heart,” Voege said. “That’s showing they understand what giving is about.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or

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