On Friday, March 24, 2023, a tragic explosion at the R.M. Palmer Chocolate Factory shocked and horrified the West Reading community—but if there is one thing that the area is known for, it is the sense of camaraderie and partnership that exists up and down “The Avenue”.
From elected officials, to first responders, to residents searching for ways to help their neighbors, West Reading experienced an outpouring of assistance for the victims of the blast and their families—and children from a local school were determined to play a part in helping, too.
Sacred Heart School, located at 701 Franklin Street (about a block behind Penn Avenue), which is operated by Sacred Heart Catholic Church, has been a mainstay of West Reading faith, culture, and academia for over 100 years. Not only do children in PreK-8th grade enjoy rigorous, faith-based academics, they are constantly looking for ways to give back to others in their community.
When the students heard about the explosion, they eagerly participated in designing a large poster and cards to thank the first responders, and raised over $100 during their school’s Spring Scholastic Book Fair, which took place the week after the explosion.
“Members of our Sacred Heart School family were employees of Palmer, and it hit very close to home. We were very pleased that, in some small way, our students were able to make a contribution to the survivors, and their families. It’s in keeping with our Gospel-driven message here at the school,” said Principal Joan Kelly McNeil.
Additionally, the graduating 8th Grade class raised an impressive $448 to donate to the victims’ fund as a result of a Lenten class challenge. Their teacher, Mrs. Munter, suggested the students use their donations to make a positive impact in the community and participate in “Change for a Change!”
“As a class, we were honored to all come together to raise funds for the victims and their families,” said Niyah Morales, the 8th grade Student Council Vice-President.
“It was about more than just raising money for the victims and coming together as a school; it was about giving what we already had, using our competitive spirit, and the love for others that Catholic school instilled in us,” added Student Council Representative Casey Changco, and Student Council Missions Representative Sophia Harrison, whose idea it initially was to donate the money to the victims’ fund.
The 8th grade students on the 2022-2023 Student Council also included President David Schnatz and Representative Neil Bitting.
Sacred Heart School, dedicated to enlightening the minds, enriching the souls, and inspiring the hearts of its students, is a small but mighty institution that has regally stood the test of time over the past century.
It is no small wonder that the students who are so grateful to be attending school in a place as beautiful and full of community as West Reading find it is second nature to extend the love of God that they learn everyday to those around them in need.