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‘Pennies from Heaven’ a big part of Hobart

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on January 25, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky
What comes first, a good school or good citizens?
Or is it good citizens who define a good school, which defines its community.
For St. Bridget Roman Catholic Church and School in Hobart, the living definition is still being refined after 80 years.
The idea of Catholicism as a basic tenet of education is a driving force of the St. Bridget community. Parents are willing to pay the tuition and put their children in the private school, but of course, tuition cannot cover every need.
So there is a complex system of annual fundraisers, the biggest of which is on tap Feb. 5.
First, though, consider the other major efforts:
The Scrip Certificate Program
Scrip requires simply buying a gift certificate (or a gift card). The cost is no more than it would be buying it from any store, but the school gets a percentage of the money spent in a rebate from the stores.
Funding Factory
This company helps schools and not-for-profit organizations. The largest free recycling fundraising program in the United States and Canada, Funding Factory offers technology, sports and recreation equipment, playground systems and even money in exchange for empty inkjet and laser printer cartridges as well as used cell phones.
Food Label Programs
St. Bridget participates in the label programs sponsored by Tyson Foods, Campbell’s and Box Tops for Education.
Meijer Community Rewards
St. Bridget participants earn cash rewards when shopping at Meijer for the school by identifying themselves as being associated with the school.
Target program
A similar program at Target stores, when a shopper identifies themselves as being from the St. Bridget community, the company credits 1 percent of the purchase totals at Target and Target.com to the school for books, supplies or whatever the schools needs.
Paper Recycling
There is an ongoing paper recycling drive, the profits of which go back to the school. Anyone can drop off paper products at any time in the yellow and green recycling bins outside of the school.
Pennies from Heaven
And this is the big one.
Every year, the school community has a raffle, called Pennies From Heaven.
The tickets are on sale now and cost $100 each, but the Home and School Association has devised a plan in which partial tickets can be bought in denominations of $10, $20, $25 or $50. These partial purchases will be combined with others to make up the required $100 per ticket. The winnings will be divided according to amount put in to make the $100.
Odds of wining are one in 1,000, because that is how many tickets are sold.
First prize is $20,000, second is $10,000, third is $5,000, fourth and fifth are $2,500 and sixth through 12th place are $1,000 each.
The drawing will take place Feb. 5, the night of their Mardi Gras dinner and dance.
Mike Uhles is one of the Home and School Association leaders. Like many parents at St. Bridgetís he doubles up as a coach for the seventh and eighth grade boyís basketball teams.
It is a throwback to the traditional Catholic Youth Organization teams that used to flourish in most communities.
CYO once had its own league in the Gary elementary schools, all of which are now closed.
But St. Bridgetís has managed to stay in a 16-team age-group league. As one of the smaller schools, they have a team for fourth and fifth graders and the older one for seventh and eighth graders. Everyone plays, no one is ever cut from the team and, as with everything else at St. Bridgetís, Uhles said they have a tremendous amount of support.
ìThe key behind all we do is that so many people, so many come out and support us,î he said.
Uhles has been involved with the Pennies From Heaven program for the last five or six years. He and his wife, Dee, have both children enrolled in the school, of course. Josh is an eighth-grader while Jenna is in fourth grade.
ìWe survive (as a school) because of all the funding we do,î he said. ìWe survive because the parish supports us, because of all the parents that volunteer.
ìWe do have lot of fundraisers that help the parishís generosity to the school. Pennies from Heaven has been going on for five years and we realize a profit of $40,000 on average. It all goes back into the school and we ultimately pay our bills.î
As might be expected, Uhles is a big believer in private schools. He believes the smaller class sizes play to the childrenís advantage.
ìAnd, when you are paying tuition, parents are much more involved from the start, from the willingness to pay tuition,î he said. ìThe commitment is to the school, not just to pay tuition.î
The school draws from all over Northwest Indiana. As parochial schools have closed and even parishes have been re-aligned, St. Bridgetís has seen students come from areas that used to support their own elementary schools, like the Miller area, Lake Station, Crown Point, Lakes of the Four Seasons and so on.
New families mean new ideas as well.
ìWe used to have a potluck dinner,î Uhles said. ìThen, a couple of years ago, someone suggested a dinner and dance. It became ëLetís have more fun. Letís get a DJ. Letís bring more people from the community in.íî
Last year, they had Notre Dame Broadcaster and former All-American football star Allen Pinkett as the emcee and the man who drew the winning numbers.
The Mardi Gras theme was in full swing, with other games of chance.
Pinkett will return this year and the new emcee is Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger, the former Notre Dame football player whose life the film was based on.
ìI have to say, it takes many, many, many people to get involved to pull this off,î Uhles said. ìBut it is for the school, for the children. So it is worth it.î
To participate in the raffle, stop by the parish office, located at 568 W. 2nd St. in Hobart, or call 219-942-6441, ext. 2.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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