By Jennifer Neville, Of The Catholic Virginian

Eighth-graders at Star of the Sea School in Virginia Beach are putting their beliefs into action as they raise money to purchase baby items for two local pregnant women who have chosen life for their babies.

So far the class has raised $345, largely through a “dress-down day” in which students each paid at least two dollars to wear their everyday clothes instead of their uniforms. Another dress-down day is slated for February.

The students are helping a homeless, jobless woman and a mother who planned to abort her baby because she already had two children whom she could barely support. The babies were saved from abortion when individuals, mainly Catholic, praying outside of Planned Parenthood in Virginia Beach intercepted them on separate occasions. The sidewalk counselor invited each woman to the nearby Hope 4 Life RV, a pro-life mobile pregnancy care center. Its services are free and include pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, donations of baby items, and referrals for medical care and other services, explained Cheri Britt who co-founded the Catholic organization Hope 4 Life Ministry with Louantha Kerr.

Star of the Sea’s eighth-grade class, which has 11 students, was thrilled to help. Part of the curriculum for the religion class this year is moral decision making which addresses abortion among other topics. This service project offered a way they could make a difference and a way they could be evangelists, said Spanish and middle-school religion teacher Myriam Traub.

“I think it helps mothers who might choose abortion see that people can help them if they can’t afford the baby,” said Ellis Cooper, one of the eighth-grade students.

For Kyle Kraning, the project has made him more aware of the problems that plague abortion.

“It opened my eyes that abortion is bad, and it’s harming the people around them and the people who do it,” he said. “It can damage them physically and mentally.”

Genie Glaser, mother of Star of the Sea eighth-grader Kristen Glaser, suggested the project to her daughter. Mrs. Glaser had participated in a similar program when the family lived in Nevada.

“We wanted to do something that was impactful,” Mrs. Glaser said.

So that Kristen could see firsthand the solemnity of the issue and the power of prayer, Mrs. Glaser took her daughter to the front border of Planned Parenthood in Virginia Beach where Catholics were praying.

”It was heart-wrenching,” Kristen said. “I had a knot in my stomach, and I wanted to cry. It was horrible to see women walk in there and kill their babies. They may not know their baby has a heartbeat, but God knows that baby was alive.”

Both Kristen and her mother then checked out the Hope 4 Life RV which was parked along the fence line of Planned Parenthood. Kristen became convinced that something needed to be done to discourage abortion, and she believed her class could help. Mrs. Glaser pitched the idea to parents at Back to School Night, Kristen described the project to her class, and Project Dresser was formed.

Classmate Tom Smith said he wanted to do the service project because the issue affected him personally — his mother had been adopted, and he thought she may have been aborted had it been legal at the time.

“I think it’s a good thing that the mothers won’t live with the fact that they had abortions,” Tom said. “Those babies have heartbeats and are just as alive as we are.”

The class was so excited after the first dress-down day that Mrs. Glaser took eight of the teens shopping that very afternoon. Each student was given a list of items to find, and they embarked on their adventure. They came back with clothes, bottles and more. They spent about two-thirds of the funds they raised; some of the money was saved to purchase items at lower prices once they go on sale. Local families donated two bassinets and a changing table.

“I saw the joy they felt when they came back from buying items for the babies. They saw how they could help a mother who chose life,” Mrs. Traub said.

Mrs. Britt said efforts like Project Dresser can make a difference.

“I feel like if they [the pregnant women] feel loved and cared about, they take a leap of faith,” Mrs. Britt said. “If given the resources they need, they feel at peace and that they can take care of their baby.”

The students were glad to serve that role.

“I’m happy to show them they’re not alone. People are there to help them, and they aren’t taking care of their baby on their own,” Kristen said. “They should be excited to have a baby and enter this new chapter in their lives and know God is with them and they’re loved. I’m very happy we did this.”

To donate to Project Dresser, send a check made payable to Star of the Sea Catholic School, 309 15th St., Virginia Beach, Va. 23451. Designate it is for Project Dresser.