Bishop Machebeuf’s ‘Shut Down for Service’ day enriches community

Moira Cullings

Every year, students at Bishop Machebeuf High School take a break from classes to go out and serve their community for an entire day.

Known as “Shut Down for Service” day, the students often accomplish significant tasks, which benefit a variety of people and organizations in need, in a matter of hours.

When Cari Ervin, Director of Activities at Windsor Gardens, an active adult living community in Denver, reached out to the school to promote a lifeguard position, she was asked if Windsor Gardens could use any help from the students for their day of giving.

“I had been wanting to do a large community event like this,” said Ervin. “It was the perfect opportunity when they asked if we could receive some students for the service day.”

Windsor Gardens had been wanting to partner with Arc Thrift Store to give their residents the chance to donate unwanted belongings to the store.

Around 50 students from Bishop Machebeuf High School spent their “Shut Down for Service” day at Windsor Gardens in Denver. (Photos provided)

“But even though we are an active adult living community, there are some residents who don’t necessarily have the ability to load up their car with unwanted items to donate or dispose of them,” said Ervin.

The task was perfect for the more than 50 Bishop Machebeuf students who showed up at Windsor Gardens ready to help collect boxes for Arc.

While one group spent time helping the residents with their cell phones, apps and emails, among other elements of the technology world, the rest of the students spread out throughout the 72-building community, tackling the more than 2,500 condo units to collect donation boxes for Arc.

“It’s a huge task and something that made me a little bit nervous,” said Ervin. “But it worked incredibly smooth and operated well and we got everything covered.”

The residents were able to simply set boxes of items they wanted to donate right outside their door, and the students walked up and down the hallways picking them up.

The students collected more than 1,000 boxes, filling up two semi-trucks, in the span of a few hours.

Although it wasn’t Bishop Machebeuf’s intention, Ervin scheduled the day as a fundraiser, so Arc gave credit of more than $1,000 back to the school — a dollar for each box collected.

The Bishop Machebeuf students collected more than 1,000 boxes from residents at Windsor Gardens to donate to Arc Thrift Store. (Photos provided)

Ervin only heard positive feedback from the residents, “which is amazing when you’re working with so many residents,” she said.

“I think our residents love that youthful energy around,” she added, “just to see the promise of the future.”

The Arc employees were also grateful for the students’ hard work.

“They really appreciated the help of the students with that loading process,” said Ervin. “They were overjoyed and amazed at the success of the event.”

Tami Bonner, General Manager at Windsor Gardens, said teaming up with the young people from Bishop Machebeuf was “a huge success and truly impacted the community in a positive way.

“While we always enjoy impacting the greater community in any way we can, what a blessing it was to have this great community of young people from outside our walls come in and serve our people, while at the same time helping us serve Arc,” said Bonner.

“When different communities come together in this way, everyone is a winner,” she said. “We are excited to see how this partnership can grow in the future.”

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.