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Holy Cross School in South Portland Assisting Shutdown-Affected Coast Guard Members

SOUTH PORTLAND---“Members of the Coast Guard are our neighbors, the people with whom we shop and go to church,” said Bill Ridge, a teacher at Holy Cross School in South Portland, “and, in our case, members of our school community.”

Holy Cross School in South Portland has a long history of offering assistance to those in need. From local service projects to fundraisers for struggling schools on different continents, the Holy Cross community rarely misses the chance to teach its students about the importance of giving back when the opportunity does arise.

“The recent government shutdown immediately hit home for many of us,” said Principal Christine L’Abbé. “Our school sits a short distance from the U.S. Coast Guard base in South Portland. These are our friends and neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet.”

In that spirit, Holy Cross School will be collecting gift cards from school families and community members to be provided to Coast Guard families in need. Donations will be accepted through Friday, February 8. The service project is part of the celebration of National Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 27-Feb. 2) at Holy Cross.

Interested parties who are not currently connected to the school are encouraged to drop off gift cards to the school, located on 436 Broadway. Suggested gift cards are from Target, Walmart, Shaw’s, Hannaford, and local gas stations.

The donations will be delivered to the base by school officials and students. There are approximately 725 active-duty and reserve Coast Guard members in Maine who have gone nearly a month without pay. 

“We are hoping to provide Coast Guard families with the ability to purchase essentials including food, personal items, and gas,” said L’Abbé. “Even with the shutdown in ‘pause mode,’ there are many families trying to catch up with the possibility of another shutdown next month.”

In addition to their efforts to help those nearby, Holy Cross will also hold its annual “Penny Wars” competition this week to benefit Ngamo Primary and Secondary Schools, Holy Cross’ sister schools in Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe. Since 2015, Holy Cross has raised thousands of dollars for Ngamo with the proceeds paying for new piping to provide fresh water for students; tuition assistance for students unable to afford the $10 trimester fee; renovations for the teachers’ cottage; clothing and sporting equipment for village families; and the completion of other projects.

“This year’s penny challenge will help to finish the classroom block the school is building,” said L’Abbé.

National Catholic Schools Week celebrates the mission of Catholic Schools: to evangelize students by nourishing faith and encouraging academic excellence while accentuating the importance of community and service in a nurturing environment. This year’s theme is “Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

For information on registering at Holy Cross or to take a tour, call the school at (207) 799-6661 or email