Cultivating a Culture of Service

With three young children, Anne Marie Mathis accumulated a plethora of baby gear back in 2010. Strollers, baby clothes, shoes, and other necessities…they all kept piling up. Spending her working days in the corporate world and always having a keen sense for giving back, she was always quick to find organizations that desperately needed all of these items to help those less fortunate.

Still, Anne Marie questioned whether her donated items were ending up in the hands that needed them most and said that she couldn’t get a clear answer in some cases. Wanting to make a difference in the world, she would leave her job and start a non-profit organization called Twice as Nice Mother and Child.

Ten years later, in 2020, Anne Marie (now a mom of seven, including Carmel freshman Brooklyn Mathis) rebranded the name to Keeping Families Covered. “We provide diapers and other basic needs to families primarily in Lake County and southern Wisconsin,” she explains. We provide support to roughly 1,200 families and 1,800 children every month with basic needs, including, of course, diapers.”

Keeping Families Covered got into diapers in 2014 when it joined the National Diaper Bank Network, which proved a big turning point for the organization. Diapers are now the flagship program for the nonprofit, which currently distributes 100,000 of them each month to local communities and more than 1 million annually.

This past July, 12 Carmel students participated in a day-long service trip, volunteering at Keeping Families Covered, where they prepared a huge batch of diapers and other goods for local distribution. Chaperoned by Carmel’s Campus Minister Erin Kerger, the group sorted, labeled, and boxed up donations and learned about the organization’s mission and the large number of families in need in their community.

“What’s especially nice is that most of these students had never heard of Keeping Families Covered, so it gave them a chance to provide assistance and learn about a new organization,” said Ms. Kerger. “The students are familiar with larger charities such as Bernie’s Book Bank and Feed My Starving Children, but like hundreds of lesser-known nonprofits, Keeping Families Covered provides an incredible service to those in need who live right in our backyard.” 

Ms. Kerger says that service trips such as this one and another on August 9, when students visited the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels Food Pantry, are important because it is one of Carmel Catholic’s most important school missions. At Our Lady of the Angels, students helped serve their sisters and brothers in Christ in Chicago with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. 

“Much like the Carmelites and BVM’s mission of service and justice, these service trips allow students to help connect with our founders,” added Ms. Kerger. “We want our students to proactively reach out to the greater community, to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world today. We always encourage them to bring their individual gifts, experiences, and talents to impact the world for the greater good. I believe it also helps connect them to humanity and themselves in a way they maybe didn’t know before.” 

Living in this age of COVID, social media, and instant gratification has been difficult for many young adults, especially high schoolers. This mental health emergency has undoubtedly been on the top of Ms. Kerger’s mind, especially when it comes to service to the community. 

“It’s the lack of human interaction, especially during COVID, that has negatively impacted so many of our students,” she says. “Giving back to the community connects our students with humanity and provides them some assistance in overcoming a lot of mental health issues. After all, we’re social beings meant to communicate and help one another. Providing this type of volunteerism helps connect our Carmel students to humanity in a way they might not have experienced before.”