An unselfish act

St. Patrick’s student collects food for Catholic back pack program

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 2/7/18

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Every 11-year-old has dreams of what they are going to get for Christmas.

Whether it’s that favorite toy or game, a bicycle, skateboard or some other gift to boost an …

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An unselfish act

St. Patrick’s student collects food for Catholic back pack program

Posted

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Every 11-year-old has dreams of what they are going to get for Christmas.

Whether it’s that favorite toy or game, a bicycle, skateboard or some other gift to boost an outdoor activity. Or better yet, money to buy whatever he or she desires.

Austin Gontarski is no different from any other 11-year-old. Well, aside from the fact that when he received a pretty good amount of money this past Christmas, he decided to use it to help families with children his own age who are struggling to make ends meet.

“I just didn’t want to be selfish,” he said. “I just didn’t want to keep it all for myself.”

When his sixth grade class at St. Patrick School in Robertsdale took a tour of the Catholic Social Services food pantry, he knew what he had to do.

Through its Backpack Food Program, Catholic Social Services helps provide students with the nutrition they need beyond the schoolhouse.

Volunteers fill bags full of non-perishable canned and boxed food goods, along with a meal plan that students and their families can follow.

Generally, churches from parishes throughout Baldwin County keep the food pantry stocked year-round to help families in need.

The son of Jennifer and Greg Gontarski of Loxley, Austin and his family have participated in the food program as members of St. Patrick’s Parish, but Austin decided he wanted to do more.

He took his Christmas money, went and purchased food for the program. Then he went around his neighborhood, going door to door collecting food and more money to purchase food.

In the end, he was able to deliver a truck and a car loaded with several hundred pounds of food, accumulating 1,726 meals and snacks for the backpack program, along with an additional 280 food units for families.

“I am very edified by Austin’s generosity and willingness to help,” said Sister Margaret Harte, principal of St. Patrick School. “He did this all on his own without any adult encouragement. If a young person can do that, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can make the world a better place.”

For Austin, the sheer joy of giving is its own reward.

“It feels really good to know that I’m helping people,” he said, “and that I’m not being selfish.”