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Good Apples: St. John effort helps children start the school year

SYCAMORE – In early July, Lynn Smith prayed people would take all of the 110 paper apples laid before her at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sycamore.

The apples, made of red construction paper, featured clothing or shoe sizes, ages and genders of 55 children served by Safe Passage, DeKalb County's domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and intervention agency.

Members of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sycamore pick the apples, then purchase clothes and shoes for the children. After purchasing and wrapping the items, church members donate them to Safe Passage for children to open before the school year starts.

“I said, 'OK Lord, help us get rid of these apples,'” Smith recalled.

Call it the Lord deciding to help or the sheer goodwill of the church members, but all 110 apples were picked. Church members will donate the items next Wednesday and the children will open them during a party next week.

St. John has held the “Apple Pick” for the past dozen years, said Smith, a members of the church's Outreach Committee, which organizes the annual effort.

“People do things for Christmas,” Smith said. “But we didn't see anyone doing anything for school besides school supplies.”

Safe Passage serves around 230 children a year, with the 55 children benefiting from St. John's efforts those currently receiving help.

Apple pickers donate at least one outfit or one pair of shoes and socks for children ages 3 to 18, depending on what apple they choose. Each apple contained a number to identify which clothes match with which shoes while keeping the child anonymous.

Smith said about 80 people picked apples this year. She picked five herself.

“I'm just thrilled to be able to help in some small way,” Smith said.

June Kamm, who also is a member of the Outreach Committee, picked three apples. All of them asked for clothing for girls. She didn't have any rhyme or reason to which apples she picked. The thing driving her was the faith-instilled mission to help.

“It's very important to care for others,” Kamm said. “God gave us this chance to be caring.”

The Rev. Robert Weinhold called the program wonderful, applauding members of his church for their willingness to help.

“We want to share his love and provide to those who are going through a difficult time,” Weinhold said.

It's not just the children who appreciate the caring spread from St. John's, said Lisa Jensen, a client services director at Safe Passage. Parents also appreciate the help in providing their often growing children with a new outfit to start the school year.

“Clothes are a basic need,” Jensen said. “Shoes are a basic need. A lot of our clients can't meet these basic needs.”

Jensen has seen the children's faces light up when they unwrap the gifts, all of which are decorated in wrapping paper, bows or ribbons. The momentary joy can spill over into their lives and put them in a positive state of mind for a fresh academic beginning.

“It gives them a sense of normalcy in their lives,” Jensen said. “They can start a new school year.”

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