St. Casimir Church, community make sure Willson School families have holiday dinners

The congregation at St. Casimir Church in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood tends to make sure their neighbors are taken care of. And church volunteer John Niedzialek—owner of Casimir the Weather-predicting Cat, and neighborhood watchdog and organizer—is now leading the way in making sure the students and their families at nearby Willson School on Ansel Road will celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with full stomachs.

St. Casimir Church Hams for FamsFor the second year, Niedzialek and other church and community volunteers are raising money to buy hams to distribute next week at the school. “Our congregation is very small,” says Niedzialek, “but you do what you can do.”

Niedzialek says he is aware that there a lot of families in need at Willson, so last year he got the idea to pass out hams and started a fundraising campaign. It was so successful, the congregation decided to do it again for Easter this year and is now doing it for the winter holidays.

“Last year was the first year we did it, so of course we want to make it bigger this year,” he says. “We gave out about 25 hams for Christmas and also 25 for Easter last year. They all go to Willson School, as it is right next to the church, and we have a relationship with them.”

Niedzialek says the teachers help choose the families who can benefit most and distribute the hams accordingly on the last day of school before break, next Tuesday, Nov. 22 for Thanksgiving and Friday, Dec. 16 for the winter holidays.

Niedzialek says he simply runs a grassroots fundraising campaign—asking church members and the community for donations. He then researches the best prices for hams and purchases them at the best-priced store.

“I get the funds by sending out an email and texts to the congregation and friends,” he explains. “Whatever I get I divide by two for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then I go out and try to find some nice hams. I found some good ones last year at Aldi, but they usually have a limit, so I go to several stores on several days to get the best bang for the buck.”

This year, he says he’s now researching how he could also supply the families with a vegetable.  “I’m trying to find a vegetable vendor at a market to get a good price for Yams this year so we can have Hams and Yams for Fams,” he quips.

Niedzialek is still collecting donations for this year’s campaign. Anyone wishing to donate can email Niedzialek or text him at (440) 749-7415.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.