Saint Viator Students and Alumni Team Up to Spread Love for Valentine’s Day
In addition to strong academic and extra-curricular activities, Saint Viator High School is deeply rooted in a tradition of giving back to others, servant leadership, and community engagement. After supporting Kenneth Young Center’s Adopt a Family by providing more than 120 gifts to area families for the holidays, many Viator families were introduced for the first time to KYC’s diverse portfolio of programs ranging from youth empowerment to older adult services, mental health to crisis interventions. Then learning that two members of KYC’s Leadership Team are Saint Viator graduates deepened the connection.
As students returned to school after winter break, many were looking for local service opportunities to support those impacted most by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sarah Miklius, SVHS Class of 2015 and current staff member of the Student Ministry Team, reached out to KYC to see how students could make an impact.
Ms. Miklius and students gathered sweet treats, craft supplies to make handmade cards, heart-shaped baskets, and more to create Valentine’s Day care packages for KYC’s clients. On February 3rd, more than 30 students gathered to assemble over 100 care packages with messages of friendship to the adults and older adults who would receive them. At the beginning of their meeting, Kate Garbarek, Director of Development and Communications, shared how the pandemic has specifically impacted clients and the strain isolation can put on someone’s mental health.
Once their packages were completed, students participated in a panel discussion on mental health, with experts from SVHS’s Counseling Department, Claudia Carone and Michael Leahy, and Katrina Flesvig, KYC’s Director of Behavioral Health.
Most of the baskets will go to seniors receiving Home Delivered Meals, while others will be distributed to adults living with serious mental illness, many of whom are living independently for the first time in years. Lisa Hendrickson (SVHS Class of 1999), Director of Community Living, leads this expanding program to build intensive outpatient mental health and social work services that ensure these adults successfully transition from long-term care facilities to independent apartments with wraparound support.
“I’m deeply proud to be a Viatorian and reconnecting with the school through service projects has been a privilege” shared Garbarek. “I had a joy-filled four-years as a student and seeing current students’ compassion toward others and their desire to destigmatize mental illness has been inspiring. These baskets will bring so much joy to people who truly need it.”
Like many Viator graduates, Hendrickson and Garbarek credit many of the values instilled during their days at Saint Viator with their desire to work in the social service sector. After graduating, Ms. Hendrickson studied at University of Connecticut and then graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Psychology. She worked as a Mental Health Outreach Counselor for a couple years in Boston, then moved back to Chicago and began working for KYC. After earning her Master’s of Social Work from the University of St. Francis, she helped establish the Community Support Team at KYC serving the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Her irrefutable drive to lift up others, sometimes from their lowest point, has not only largely built the department that she now oversees, but has changed countless lives for the better. From helping community members find permanent and stable housing to connecting them with the ongoing support services that help each individual reach their personal goals for independence, her work makes an impact each day.
After graduating from Saint Viator, Ms. Garbarek earned double degrees in Strategic Communication/Public Relations and Comparative Religion from Miami University. She’s held fundraising roles at both Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago and the Friendship Senior Options Foundation before joining KYC’s team to lead their communications and advancement efforts. Her goal is to empower impact through philanthropy, volunteerism, and service.
Both of these St. Viator alumni are proud to carry on the values and skills they learned as Lions throughout their professional careers by giving back to our communities and honored to continue that relationship through projects with today’s Lions.