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As the days get colder, the needs of the less fortunate become that much more severe. A new student-run club at Christendom saw that need and decided to make a difference in the college’s local community, starting a fundraiser on campus. Through these efforts, the new “Restoration Club” raised thousands for a local homeless shelter, making it possible for the shelter to open early this winter.

The Restoration Club, founded this semester by sophomore Madeline Gecosky, made and sold 122 care packages to Christendom parents for their children needing pick-me-ups during midterms week. The packages, which included snacks, holy cards, hand-written notes from parents, and more, not only raised the spirits of the students — they enabled the Restoration Club to help the less-fortunate throughout Front Royal through over $2,400 in donations. These donations went directly to Front Royal’s winter homeless shelter, or thermal shelter, and to the Front Royal Pregnancy Center.

The club, which exists to “restore the culture through an active, lay apostolate,” was born out of the drive and past experiences of Gecosky.

Gecosky grew up in Michigan and began serving others at a young age. Each January, her high school, St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Wixom, Michigan, would host a week of prayer, growth and witness known as “Epoch Week.” During that week, students would volunteer at places throughout Detroit, serving in foster care centers, soup kitchens, rescue missions, and more.

Students have already begun volunteering at the thermal shelter, helping to serve the homeless.

For Gecosky, these early experiences were irreplaceable moments in her life, not only because they helped her learn to serve and lead her peers but also due to the many encounters she had with the people she was able to help serve.

“Through evangelization, we served in some of the hardest cities—Flint and Detroit,” said Gecosky. “We saw people from all walks of life and had to be able to articulate the gospel to them based on their need.”

This annual week of service was not enough to satisfy Gecosky’s desire to bring Christ to others, resulting in her founding the Restoration Club at Christendom.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about what the ‘Restoration of the Culture’ would look like—for each saint has a different call,” explains Gecosky. “This vision of [the] Restoration Club began to color the lens through which I viewed everything. I would daydream about what the students could do for society if only we had the opportunity to do so before graduation. When I expressed this desire to multiple students, there was an overwhelming support of this ministry.”

With this desire and encouragement from others, Gecosky rose to answer the call and founded the club. Within half a semester, the Restoration Club has already been able to serve in evangelization, praise and worship opportunities on campus and beyond, and serving at the local thermal shelter.

When it came to wanting to help the shelter, Gecosky was given inspiration from alumna Johanna Burke (’19), who was a volunteer there when Gecosky was a freshman. This connection helped Gecosky to organize ways for the Restoration Club to start serving there as volunteers — including putting on praise and worship at the shelter on two occasions, accompanied by the college’s Dean of Students, Tim Judge.

The Front Royal Pregnancy Center is one of the other locations that the Restoration Club fundraised for this fall. Students visited the pregnancy center during the college’s annual Day of Service on All Saints Day, helping with various tasks around the center.

For Gecosky, the efforts of the Restoration Club run in tandem with Christendom’s mission to “restore all things in Christ.” The education and culture at the college inspired her and her fellow students to want to begin restoring the culture right now, rather than wait till after graduation.

“The education that Christendom provides is invaluable, but with this great blessing comes a great responsibility,” says Gecosky. “Our responsibility as informed Catholics is to evangelize in our lay apostolate — it is a duty. I do not believe we should wait until after Christendom to take part in living out the beatitudes in service. Why? Because I believe restoration is a habit. It doesn’t all of a sudden happen after graduation unless it’s learned. Restoration is something we define as a vision that causes holy action.”

The Restoration Club is planning to partner with the college’s Student Life Office to organize a mission task for each of the seven corporal works of mercy throughout the remainder of the semester. One of these projects in the works is participating in “God Behind Bars,” which involves writing letters to prison inmates; the club also hopes to visit the local prison sometime this year as well.

“Restoring all things in Christ” is a call that does not have to be delayed. Gecosky and her fellow students are proving that right now, making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. Even better — they are only just getting started.

This story was contributed by Ashlianna Kreiner (’22). 

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