WAKEFIELD — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has presented the first awards in his 150 Acts of Charity initiative, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Providence by recognizing groups of the diocesan family who have performed new or increased volunteer efforts during the celebration year.
The bishop visited The Prout School, a diocesan Catholic high school, on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to present 150 Acts of Charity plaques to three Prout students who spearheaded a school and community-wide effort to collect winter clothing for Afghan refugees currently housed at the U.S. Army’s Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
James Jahnz presented the three students — Ava Grosso, Noah Slitt and Ben Slitt — to the bishop for their award at the end of Mass, which was celebrated for a socially distanced Prout School community on the auditorium stage.
“We’re in the midst of the 150th anniversary of our diocese and Bishop Tobin has asked that we recognize 150 acts of charity taking place throughout the diocese during this celebration,” Janhz said in congratulating the students for their leadership in working with their fellow students and staff at Prout in their act of charity, as he welcomed them to the altar to receive their awards.
Bishop Tobin then presented each of the students with a plaque inscribed with the logo of the diocese’s 150th anniversary, which is comprised of the outstretched arms of Jesus and the words from Psalm 126:3, “The Lord Has Done Great Things for Us; We Are Filled With Joy.”
“As Mr. Jahnz mentioned, this is the very first presentation of awards for 150 Acts of Charity that we’re giving throughout the diocese in honor of our 150th anniversary, which we are celebrating this year. For a good part of the history of our diocese, The Prout School has been a part of our diocesan life and ministry as well,” said Bishop Tobin.
“Thanks to all of you at The Prout School who are doing great work, with a special word of thanks to the students who are being recognized today for their good work in providing assistance to the Afghan refugees, some of whom will be coming into our state. It is very important work. The ministry they have undertaken, the good works they are doing on behalf of our refugees represents The Prout School.”
Senior Ava Grosso has engaged in service projects throughout her years at Prout, from cooking food at a local soup kitchen to assembling bags of necessities for the less fortunate.
After learning from the parents of co-awardees Noah and Ben Slitt that some 14,000 Afghan refugees being housed at the U.S. Army’s Fort McCoy in Wisconsin had little more than the clothes they could carry with them in their hasty departure weeks before from Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, Grosso was inspired to help.
Together, the three students approached Principal David Estes, a veteran himself who had once served at Fort McCoy, asking if they could launch a clothing drive for the refugees.
“We were proud to support Ava’s initiative,” Estes said.
Dubbed Operation Warm Welcome, the initiative, was also supported by Director of Student Support Ron Renzi, and co-moderators of the Student Council Joe Tarasevich and Mallory Lepere Conde.
It included donations as one part of the class competitions during Prout’s Fall Spirit Week, garnered contributions from 75 percent of the school community within the first five days alone.
Prout students and parents, as well as other entities from the greater community dropped off bags of clothing at dedicated times before school.
Noah and Ben Slitt, assisted by their mother Angela and father Andrew, a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corps, brought the bags to a storage unit they had secured to stockpile the donations.
The Slitt family plans to soon rent a large transport vehicle to deliver the donations to Fort McCoy personally.
“Operation Warm Welcome was a community effort led by three wonderful students, faculty and parents,” Estes said.
“The three student leaders are representative of our whole community, giving to those in need,” Estes said. “It is a great tradition in our church.
The students expressed their gratitude to Bishop Tobin for presenting them with the diocesan award and gave thanks to their peers and the others who made the clothing drive such a success.
“It’s incredible that we collected more than 2,000 items,” Grosso said. “It’s great to be able to use our resources to help other people however we can in times like they are facing.”
“It’s a wonderful honor and I’m going to have this for the rest of my life, and it’s even more of an honor to be the first to receive an Act of Charity Award,” junior Noah Slitt said of receiving the plaque.
“Thinking back a month or two I would never have imagined that this effort would have had such popularity and had such a great community outcome.
“It’s really good to be a part of something like this,” his brother, sophomore Ben Slitt said.
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