Community Voices

Teachers, students turn leftover bread to croutons for St. Jude Children’s Hospital

Second-grade students at St. Brendan Catholic Elementary School help make a difference for sick kids at St. Jude Children's Hospital by selling gourmet croutons made from donated unused sandwich bread.
Second-grade students at St. Brendan Catholic Elementary School help make a difference for sick kids at St. Jude Children's Hospital by selling gourmet croutons made from donated unused sandwich bread. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Acts of kindness, generosity and love can often come from the youngest among us.

Maddie Valeiras, a second-grade teacher at St. Brendan Catholic Elementary School in Miami, knows this well.

Every year, she said, each grade at the school picks a charity to empower the children to understand how they can make a difference for others. They call it “Knocking on Someone’s Door.”

This year, her little students are doing something different. It started over the summer when she and her second-grade teacher colleagues Zabrina Valdez and Ana Cabrera went to the Subrageous on Bird Road for lunch. Each time they visited they saw that bread was going to waste.

“I noticed that they would cut off a small portion of the bread to make smaller subs,” Valeiras said in email. “I began talking with the girl behind the counter and she told me that unfortunately they usually throw them away. I knew that we could do something with that delicious bread, so I asked her if she could save it for me. She immediately agreed.”

Valeiras said she wasn’t sure what to do but knew that she wanted to incorporate the bread into a community-based project with the students.

“I was speaking with my sister-in-law and she mentioned that my father-in-law always gave to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. When I got home from work and checked my mail that very day, I received a letter from St. Jude! As a Catholic school teacher it felt like divine intervention. I knew that it would be a perfect fit for our students,” she said.

But what to do with the bread, she wondered.

She decided to make gourmet croutons and have the second-graders help with packaging and selling for donations. The idea was to send the money from crouton sales to help the children at St. Jude.

“I bake them at home on the weekends and we meet every month with the kids after school so they can help package them,” Valeiras said. “We ask for a $5 donation and the customer receives a FREE bag of amazing gourmet croutons! The students are understanding the importance of helping others and what a difference they can make even in second grade.”

“We named our project LiVe WhoLE. We’re helping others love effortlessly. So far we have raised $200 from croutons and we also joined thousands of people at Tamiami Park “Walk for a Cure” St. Jude Children’s Hospital and raised $800.”

She said the project would not be possible without the generous donations from Subrageous on Bird Road.

“I pick up the bread every two weeks and they are awesome for donating to us. We just had our monthly packaging session and the kids were so excited to participate with their parents. Watching the students understand the importance of giving to others is truly a wonderful part of being a teacher,” she said.

“I know that as an educator my goal is to help my students succeed academically, but showing them that doing for others is a life long lesson,” Valeiras said. “In today’s craziness it feels so incredible to watch a community come together to encourage kids to help kids.”

FREE CAROLING

Bring the family to enjoy singing this holiday season during five days of the Caroling Competition, a Coral Gables tradition since 1987. Presented by UHealth Jackson Urgent Care Centers, singers from 30 Miami-Dade and Broward middle- and senior-high public, private and parochial schools, with over 1,500 young people, perform and compete for cash prizes.

The Caroling Competition is free and runs 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 30, with performances through Dec. 4. The final performances on Dec. 4 are 3 to 6 p.m. The young singers will perform in front of the large lion statues wearing their Santa hats and near the tall poinsettia tree at the 550 Biltmore Way Building. Six different schools perform each night.

Since 1987, the Caroling Competition has given more than $250,000 in prize money to support music programs in schools. Grand-prize winners will return at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 to perform their award-winning program and accept their checks. For more and for the schedule of schools, visit http://carolingcompetition.org or call 305-491-4180.

HOLIDAY CONCERT

Continue your seasonal cheer at this concert by Miami’s Alhambra Orchestra with Robert Keating as guest conductor. “Holidays in the Garden” is a family event at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at Pinecrest Gardens, 11100 Red Rd.

Selections will include Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” and portions of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet and arrangements of beloved Hanukkah and Christmas tunes.

Tickets are $10 adults, $5 children. Call 305-669-6990 or visit www.alhambramusic.org for more.

CONGRATULATIONS

The Miami Dolphins have selected Liliam López as the recipient of the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award and will honor her Nov. 27 when the team faces the San Francisco 49ers. The Hispanic Heritage Foundation awards recognize contributions of Hispanic leaders in each NFL market.

López is a co-founder of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation and serves as president & CEO of both. She will donate the $2,000 award to the Foundation. Visit http://sflhcc.com.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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