Holy Family Service Tradition: Breakfast at the Simpson House
5:00 a.m. Gracie Lund’s mobile phone comes alive, waking her on a “day off.” The Holy Family Catholic High School senior has 15 minutes to load groceries and get to the Holy Family parking lot to pick up a group of waiting freshmen ready for their first Simpson House experience in Minneapolis.
The goal: Serve a hot breakfast by 7 a.m. to homeless men and women who stayed at the shelter the previous night. It’s a simple gesture that means so much. Taking the time to serve a hearty meal and start someone’s day with a smile and a kind word.
“Simpson House is a great hands-on service project because you can see the people you are impacting,” says Lund, who learned the ropes two years ago as a sophomore. “I like seeing the people I’m helping, and it has a big impact on me as well. That’s why it’s my favorite service activity.”
Project Owned by Students
Lund and fellow senior leaders Alexis Pricco and Mark Haran have Holy Family alumnus Rob LaRose (2013) to thank for the early morning wake-ups. LaRose personally launched the service project his junior year, and it has become an ongoing tradition. The students completely organize the program, buy groceries and visit the Simpson House 15 to 18 times each year on days off, late-start days and even during the summer.
“It is unusual for a student group not to have adult supervision,” says John Vodicka, Simpson House Volunteer Coordinator & Shelter Advocate. “It says a lot about the students and their abilities, and the confidence Holy Family Catholic High School staff have in the youth.
“The students are unique in lots of ways,” he adds, “particularly in their genuine interest in serving the homeless poor, getting outside their comfort zone and spending time learning about what must be done to eliminate homelessness in our community.”
John Dols, Assistant Principal and Campus Minister, recalls how LaRose’s passion to make a difference at the Simpson House planted the seeds for a program that is now a Holy Family Catholic High School tradition.
“Rob served dinner there with his family and wondered what they did for breakfast,” Dols explains. “He found out they would have cold cereal or nothing at all. He decided to make a difference, and that he and his family would serve breakfast on his birthday.
“Then, he suggested to me that Holy Family should serve breakfast on days off and late starts. I totally supported that, but told him he would have to run it. He did for two years, and we both decided he needed to train a junior to take over if he wanted to keep it going.”
Reaching Out to Others
Six years later, students continue to make sure the Simpson House tradition carries on. Senior leaders this year took it even a step further, visiting the freshman Independent Studies (I.S.) class to recruit volunteers so they could see what the Simpson House service project is all about.
“We thought it would be good to get all grades involved this year,” Lund says. “It was actually surprising that the kids were so eager to go. We already have people for next time.”
On average, 45 to 50 Simpson House guests stay for breakfast before they have to leave the shelter each morning. Students organizing the project, who shop for groceries the night before, still use the original grocery list created by LaRose 6 years ago.
“Sometimes we change it up, making French toast instead of pancakes, or bacon instead of sausage,” Lund says. Otherwise, the list is fairly consistent. It includes:
- 7 cartons of 18 eggs
- 2 bags of cheese
- 2 bags of precooked sausage
- 2 boxes of pancake mix
- 2 bags/containers of grapes, strawberries or other fruit
- 4 gallons of milk
- 1 gallon of chocolate milk
- 2 gallons of orange juice
- 2 gallons of apple juice
- 2 bottles of syrup
- 1 pound of butter
- 1 package of napkins
- 1 container of whipped cream
“I think it is important for Holy Family to continue this service tradition and make sure it is student led,” Lund adds. “ It gives students a chance to take leadership, organize and get kids together so they can see how they have an impact on others. That is really important.”
Dols agrees. “Sometimes, adults get in the way. This program is the students’. There is a true sense of ownership and pride,” he says. “Service is integral to our faith and an essential aspect of our Lasallian Charism. It is who we are.”