Homes and businesses destroyed, lives upended, the tornados that ripped through the Miami Valley in May 2019 were devastating to the region but there was a bright spot in the tragedy — the people. And it was those generous, tireless people who motivated the capstone group of seniors Kelly Carmody, Abby Feucht, Eric Miller and Maria Weizman.
“The main inspiration was seeing everyone in our community coming together to volunteer and help during a crisis,” Carmody said. “We got in contact with multiple organizations and found our best work could be done through St. Vincent de Paul. Quickly, we were able to help a family and really start to see what we wanted to do with our project.”
The work began last summer, before their senior year was even underway.
“The group saw an immediate need in our Dayton community and decided to make an impact on families affected by the May tornados,” said Molly Bardine, senior capstone coordinator.
The group’s goal was twofold — provide assistance for a family hard hit by the tornado and raise awareness in the Chaminade Julienne community about the lasting impact of the devastating natural disaster. While the tornados were in the past, the present was still a struggle for many people in the area.
“We felt like there wasn’t a lot of light shined on a very pressing issue,” Feucht said. “We made it our top priority to help people while also trying to bring to light an issue in our school and community.”
In addition to helping the local family, the group decided to explore the impact on the CJ community by interviewing students and recording their stories. They created a documentary featuring footage and images shot shortly after the tornados struck as well as community recovery efforts and the student interviews. They presented the documentary to homerooms in early March, just before schools were forced to close as a result of the pandemic.
“We hoped to bring awareness and educate the underclassmen in our school about the efforts of St. Vincent de Paul and others in the community to help those still in need,” Weizman said.
“I believe we exceeded our expectations,” Feucht said. “We reached people in ways that I didn’t think we were going to, which was really cool to see.”
While they were successful in raising awareness and providing assistance to the family, the group members themselves also benefitted from the experience.
“This project impacted me personally because it helped me gain a closer relationship and understanding of the entire community,” Miller said. “It helped me realize how important serving others is and how just a little help goes a long way.”
While the now CJ graduates will soon go their separate ways — Feucht to Kettering College, Miller to the University of Cincinnati, Carmody to Ohio State University and Weizman to the University of Washington — the experience created a bond they will always share.
“I learned more about the people in my group and how well we worked together,” Weizman said. “And this project made me realize that there is always more to do to help the community and show support in small ways.”