Sacred Heart Church youth support food pantry

Elise Kehoe and Emma Sperfslage planned and hosted a drive-through soup supper at Sacred Heart Church earlier this year. Despite a snowstorm that day, they raised over $2,500. From left are Pastor Wade Reddy, Kehoe, Sperfslage, and Father Paul Baldwin. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     “These two could rule the world,” praised Sacred Heart Catholic Church priest, Father Paul Baldwin.

     He is referring to Monticello High School juniors Emma Sperfslage and Elisa Kehoe.

     In January 2020, both girls came to Baldwin with the idea of going on a mission trip to somewhere like Detroit, Mich.

     “Quite a few churches in the area, and some of my cousins, have gone on trips to other countries,” said Kehoe. “But there are plenty of people in our country that need help.”

     The girls said those who have gone of mission trips in the past talk about the great experiences they’ve had and hoe eye-opening it is.

     “We’re a little naïve here,” continued Kehoe. “There are bigger world issues that we’re sometimes sheltered from here.”

     The mission trip idea was something the girls wanted to offer to their entire confirmation class at Sacred Heart, roughly 20 youth. They also planned to raise the money to go.

     Then, as news started to spread about coronavirus, they realized they probably weren’t going to be able to travel.

     “We thoughts maybe we would be able to go in late summer,” recalled Kehoe, “but as things progressed, Father (Baldwin) said we weren’t able to go.”

     Kehoe and Sperfslage weren’t going to give up. They wanted to volunteer their time and make a difference in one way or another.

     In September, they came up with the idea to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Cedar Rapids. Throughout the fall, however, local COVID-19 numbers began to surge.

     “When the schools and churches shut down,” said Sperfslage, “we had to think of something different.”

     Realizing that their own community members were in need and that the Monticello Food Pantry could use some help, the girls decided to host a drive-through soup supper at Sacred Heart Church in February.

     “We wanted to raise as much money as we possible could,” Kehoe said of donating to the food pantry. “Every little bit helps.”

     Sperfslage said they saw the success Sacred Heart had with a drive-through fish fry, they thought a drive-through soup supper could work.

     Before the event even got off the ground, Kehoe and Sperfslage raised some money by selling rubber band bracelets at their church. The bracelets read: “Have you prayed today?” That little fundraiser brought in $840, which helped to cover the costs of the food and items for the soup supper.

     The girls said they had money left over just from purchasing groceries that also went toward their overall donation to the food pantry.

     “One lady bought 25 bracelets, had Father bless them, and gave them to people for Christmas presents,” recalled Kehoe.

     The soup supper was scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 21. As the date approached, it became apparent that a big snowstorm was headed this way.

     “We thought about postponing it,” said Sperfslage, “but we thought we needed to get it done and just help out the food pantry.”

     The girls said the food pantry was in need, especially following the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

     The weather did not keep the public away, though. They ended up raising a grand total of $2,503.48.

     “Everyone was so generous,” said Kehoe. “I was shocked. I was about to cry. I couldn’t believe it.”

     Kehoe said if they had raised just $500, she would have been happy.

     “We were very grateful for that,” added Sperfslage. “It’s amazing how generous people were.”

     They prepared to serve between 300 and 500 people.

     “Some people came back through the line with their own containers and tubs for us to fill with soup,” Sperfslage said.

     In July 2020, Kehoe and Sperfslage were finally confirmed, along with the rest of their confirmation class.

     “We all wore masks and each family had its own pew,” Sperfslage said of the proper protocols in place.

     The idea of going on a mission trip, and then hosting a soup supper, was not something the girls needed to do in order to get confirmed. It was just something they wanted to do for others.

     They were required to put in 15 hours of community service, though. Sperfslage volunteered her time coaching 5-6 grade volleyball. Kehoe tutored bilingual middle school Spanish students.

     “They helped me with my Spanish more than I probably helped them,” she said.

     Both are part of the Sacred Heart Church choir, which has been on hold due to COVID. Both were also planning to assist at the church’s fish fry on March 26.

     “We’re already so involved, so reaching 15 hours was not hard at all,” Kehoe said.

     The girls are now looking at their schedules to find time to physically volunteer at the Monticello Food Pantry.

     “I feel like if we can be helping someone, we should do what we’re able to do,” said Sperfslage.

     Kehoe credits her parents for instilling in her the concept of giving to others.

     “My parents volunteer a lot,” she said. “Every Christmas we give money to charity.”

     The $2,503.48 Kehoe and Sperfslage raised for the food pantry is enough to cover two months of food bills at Fareway.


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