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St. Peter students get lesson in giving

St. Peter School students Francesco Cicero from front Madelyn Torrance TiYbarrcarry pies for Thanksgiving dinner Hesed House homeless shelter Aurora.

St. Peter School students Francesco Cicero, from front, Madelyn Torrance and Tia Ybarra carry pies for Thanksgiving dinner to Hesed House homeless shelter in Aurora. Through collection of spare change students were able to purchase 37 pies, enough dessert for 200 people staying at the shelter. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 24, 2012 7:05AM

The students of St. Peter Catholic School had a lesson in giving — and math — Wednesday morning: If they’ve donated 37 pies, each with eight slices, have they donated enough pies to feed the 200 or so residents of Hesed House?

“That’s 296 slices!” shouted one student after doing a little mental math in the lobby of the Hesed House homeless shelter.

Eight students from St. Peter carried in boxes of apple, fruit medley and candy cane pies to be added to the shelter’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Students collected pennies for pies for two weeks during the school’s fundraising drive. Children in each grade level said they searched through pockets and purses, under furniture and between couch cushions for pennies to add to the jars in each classroom — and then purchased the pies from the Market Day program.

The school’s first graders collected the most pennies — and earned a no-uniform day. The school as a whole raised $542.

“What we did was a big fundraiser for the school, and then also an activity to give back, and the giving back is the kids’ part,” said Luisa Cicero, a parent at the school.

The activity was important for the students because St. Peter School is founded on faith, education and service, she said.

Hesed House Executive Director Ryan Dowd thanked the children and shared how Thanksgiving happens at the shelter.

“Imagine having no home, and no food and nowhere to go,” he said. “And having to sleep in a park or under a bridge when it’s really cold, that would be pretty horrible.”

Thanksgiving, however, is a more joyful occasion.

“We try to help people eat well every day, but on Thanksgiving, we eat really well,” Dowd said. “And then we eat turkey for the next week. We really max out on leftovers.”

Hesed House’s emergency shelter feeds about 200 people — give or take 50 — each Thanksgiving, he said. The effort takes about 20 turkeys, plus potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls and the rest.

With winter approaching, Dowd said the shelter’s greatest need is new or very gently used winter boots, particularly for adults.

“About 90 percent of the people who live here don’t have cars,” he said. “So imagine walking everywhere you go in the snow in tennis shoes.”

Donations can be brought to Hesed House directly. Financial donations for the shelter can be made on the organization’s website,, which also has a holiday wish list posted of other needed items.

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