Pay It Forward: Students Fundraise To Help Strengthen Community

Seventh graders donate gifts to SVdP programs through Arrupe Project

Once a year at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in central Phoenix, students spend a portion of their day shopping in a festive and bustling marketplace located on campus.

However, this marketplace does not occur during the holidays. And the vendors are not your typical vendors.

This is the Arrupe Marketplace.

“The Arrupe Project is something the elementary school started seven or eight years ago for seventh and eighth graders. It’s a project that spans two and half semesters in their religion class,” says Carla Sorensen, a mother of participating student Jack Sorensen.

According to Carla, each year all the seventh grade students at St. Francis Xavier start the project by learning about Father Arrupe, who was a Jesuit priest that taught about the importance of sharing one’s talents by going out into the community to work with those in need.

During the course of the project, each student is required to research local organizations, write a paper on their findings and is paired with an organization that is the best fit for them. The students earn $10 through a chore, which is then matched by the school through grants. These start-up funds are used by the students to buy materials to create homemade items, or products, to sell in the marketplace.

It’s a project that engages the students each step of the way to the very end. Without help from parents, students contact their chosen organization to learn about their needs and ask for their ‘wish list.’ After selling their homemade products at the marketplace, students purchase these wish list items and personally deliver them to the organization. The goal is “to empower students to become men and women for others through faith, service and justice.”

This year, St. Vincent de Paul was blessed to receive several wish list requests from St. Francis Xavier students. And many struggling families and individuals will be helped through the students' hardworking and compassionate efforts. Meet some of the students who chose SVdP to help better their community…

St. Francis Xavier student Johnny
Johnny, 13

“I’ve always known about St. Vincent de Paul. Last year during Christmas, I came in and made booklets for kids during a Hearts and Hands event,” he says. “I really liked that, so I joined the ‘Mini Vinnies’ (SVdP volunteer groups for children) group at my school. I also held a water drive with two other friends and we donated the water to SVdP. I really liked it here and I saw that they helped a lot people, so I wanted to be a part of that.”

Product: Emoji pillows, pencil toppers and slime
Price: $3 for the pillows and $1 for the pencil toppers and slime
Profit: $235
SVdP Program: Dream Center and Food Warehouse
Donation: Board games, books for the Dream Center library and non-perishable food

“It makes you feel really good when you help other people. They need help and if you can do it and have the opportunity, you should help them.”


St. Francis Xavier student Jack Mills
Jack, 13

“When I was in 4th grade, our class took a field trip to a St. Vincent de Paul dining room,” he says. “That’s when I learned about what SVdP does and how it impacts people. After that field trip I volunteered here a couple of times and joined the Mini Vinnies group at my school. I chose SVdP for my Arrupe Project because I remember seeing all of the homeless people on the streets during our field trip and I knew I wanted to help them in some way.”

Product: Homemade Chia pets made from burlap bags, soil and grass seeds
Price: $3-$4
Profit: $170
SVdP Program: Local SVdP food pantry
Donation: Non-perishable food items and bottled water

“If you don’t help those in need, I feel like you won’t feel proud. It’s like scoring a lot of points or having a good game in sports, but it’s not the same exact feeling. You just feel better when you do something good for other people.”


St. Francis Xavier student Leo Halperin
Leo, 12

“Before I came to St. Francis Xavier, I went to another school that talked a lot about service and the teachers mentioned St. Vincent de Paul a lot. So when I did my research, I looked up your website. I went to the program area section and saw that you have a Bike Shop. I’ve always liked bikes and I thought it would be nice to give a bike to someone who needs it.”

Product: Homemade kinetic sand
Price: $1 for a one-pound bag
Profit: $44
SVdP Program: Bike Shop
Donation: 3 bike pumps and one bike

“I think it’s important to help others so that they can do better, stay safe and live a good life. It makes me feel good that I can help with that.”


St. Francis Xavier student Jack Sorensen
Jack, 13

“I also learned about St. Vincent de Paul during our field trip in 4th grade, but last summer I joined the Mini Vinnies group at my school. I liked it so much I started volunteering in the Dream Center every Monday with my mom. I volunteer at a lot of different places, like Mom’s Place, Home for Good, Homeward Bound and Pets on Wheels, which is a service I started by bringing my dog in to assisted living places. I really think service is an important thing for our community.”

Product: Photo prints (taken on his vacation to Catalina Island) adhered to painted woodblocks
Price: $1-$4
Profit: $400
SVdP Program: Dream Center
Donation: Art supplies such as canvases, paintbrushes and paint

“I think giving back is important because without each one of us doing good for others, there would be a lot more people out on the streets, homeless and without food.”


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