By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator  

A group of Redemptorist High School alumni, who continue to remain loyal to their school, have rallied to express support for their alma mater’s elementary school, Redemptorist St. Gerard School in Baton Rouge.  

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The grounds of Redemptorist St. Gerard School in Baton Rouge were spruced up during a two-day cleanup effort just before school started Aug. 7. A new sign, donated by Mary and Jeff Miller, was also put up.  Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator  

 

“We wanted to do something for this school and to make it a place where children want to go to school,” said Mary Miller, a Redemptorist High graduate and Redemptorist St. Gerard volunteer.  

Not long after principal Cheryl Domino stepped into her new job on July 1, Ashley Pizzolato, the school’s bookkeeper and another Redemptorist graduate, asked if Domino would like to meet with a group of willing volunteers, all of whom share fond memories of their North Baton Rouge alma mater which closed several years ago.  

“Miss Mary was the chairperson and asked, ‘How can we help with this school?’ And, I said, ‘Walk with me,’ ” recalled Domino. “She saw the need and got on it.”  

After meeting with Domino, maintenance supervisor Willie Crenshaw and other staff members, Miller said a plan was made to get the school ready for the arrival of 202 students on the first day of school, Aug. 7. Miller recruited volunteers through social media and other contacts and enlisted the help of her family members, including her husband Jeff. For two days on the weekend before school began, 45 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work.  

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Flowers, butterflies and clouds were painted onto the walls of the hallways in the school during the cleanup project at the school. 

 

Jennifer Sims, a junior at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge and a relative of Miller, was among those who showed up to work. She also recruited friends to assist and said she was moved by the experience.  

“I thought it was wonderful that we could help out,” said Sims. “I was excited to get involved and do what I could do.”  

Miller said there were an abundance of blessings on the project. During a trip to a local paint store, Miller said she was inquiring about a donation of paint when a painter mentioned a job he was on with 75 gallons of unused paint available. Miller said one phone call later and the company had approved the donation of the unused paint.  

“That’s God,” Miller of the experience. “Because that was very expensive and we were able to repaint all the classrooms, almost every floor, the cafeteria and the concession stand (in the gym).” 

The hallways were also repainted with flowers and clouds “to make it a happy place for the kids,” she added.  

The outside of the building was pressure washed, flowerbeds were cleaned out and bushes were cut and trimmed. The school is also sporting a new sign, made by Miller and her husband. 

In addition to helping hands, Miller said wish lists for office supplies, set up with an online retailer, were immediately filled. She added that eight donors stepped up to sponsor classrooms and their needs.  

Additional projects and events are planned for the future, including establishing a building and maintenance fund to pay for central air and heat at the school. Currently, window units cool and heat classrooms and offices only. </span id=”13″>

“(A few of my friends) and I were looking for a new ministry,” said Miller. “We want to see our money, our time and our efforts change the community.” 

 “I am overwhelmed and grateful,” said Domino. “Miss Mary came to open house and I introduced her like a sister, like I’ve been knowing her for ages, and I haven’t. She doesn’t just talk about it, she puts things into action.”  

Built in 1947, Redemptorist St. Gerard School sits on St. Gerard Avenue with beautiful oak trees shading the front entrance. Now with this beautification effort, the energy inside the school can be felt and seen alongside the spruced up grounds and freshly painted halls and walls.  

“I came to Redemptorist High School in 10th grade, and this community of Redemptorist changed my life,” said Miller. “And when you hear people say, ‘Redemptorist is a family,’ that’s exactly what it means. You have made a life-long connection wherever you go.”  

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The cafeteria was repainted along with classrooms and offices.