Prairie Village’s St. Ann Catholic School prepares annual holiday gifts for families, kids in need

St. Ann Catholic School sixth graders load "Red Bags" onto a U-Haul truck as part of the 37-year program helping Kansas City area kids and families in need during the holiday season.

The coronavirus pandemic put a stop to a number of things in 2020, but not to the 37-year long tradition at St. Ann Catholic School, 7241 Mission Road, of filling 136 “Red Bags” with holiday gifts for families in need.

Each year, people in the greater St. Ann community are matched up with kids and families in the Kansas City area to provide a bit of extra holiday help. Jessica Loveland, St. Ann assistant principal, said the school is grateful to be able to continue the program amid COVID-19.

St. Ann contributed 136 ‘Red Bags’ to the program this year, with 145 kids and 33 families adopted.

“It’s just such a beautiful thing the way our community is able to come together, especially during this time with all the unknowns,” Loveland said. “We have wish lists for these kids, and many of the things are winter coats, gloves and shoes, things we can so easily take for granted. Our families and students just shower them with kindness.”

St. Ann is the largest contributor to the metro-wide Red Bags program this year, with 145 children and 33 families being served. Across the Kansas City area, Red Bags has matched up more than 1,500 children and families this year with donors — a record-breaking number for the program.

St. Ann students were sent home with “Red Bag” slips earlier in the semester, and have spent time picking out gifts and wrapping and labeling them. Sixth graders at the school spent Friday morning packing a U-Haul truck full of red bags.

Courtney Reiser and Donnie Evangelidis, two of the students who helped load the truck, said it’s their first year helping load, but they’ve participated in the program previously by wrapping gifts. Reiser said her favorite part is buying gifts for others, while Evangelidis said the process as a whole is “pretty cool.”

“Just giving little things like toys and clothes,” Evangelidis said.

There were safety measures in place due to COVID-19, including social distancing and requiring students to wear a mask during the loading. Additionally, Loveland said if outside parishioners had gifts to drop off, they were not allowed inside the school.

Loveland said during the program, teachers talk about the greater needs of the community and it teaches the students about giving back.

“Their generosity is just incredible,” Loveland said. “They really get a sense of putting others first and thinking of others during the holiday season.”