Continuing Sister Sheehan’s legacy with a Christmas tradition

Each Christmas, the Sacred Heart Greenwich community donates toys to children who attend the Head Start program at the Carver Center.  Sister Rosemary Sheehan, Religious of the Sacred Heart, had close ties to the Carver Center and began the program Saturdays at Sacred Heart (SASH) to benefit financially disadvantaged children who are involved in the Carver Center programs.  The Upper School Community Service Club, under the direction of Mrs. Kerry Bader, Upper School Director of Social Justice and Service and Peer Leadership Co-Moderator, continues this tradition and honors Sister Sheehan’s legacy.

Sacred Heart volunteers and Nora Finnegan Dolce ’70 making gingerbread houses with the children of the Carver Center Head Start program. Courtesy of

The Carver Center, founded in 1943, is the largest community center in Port Chester, New York.  The center offers programs such as the Head Start program for preschool-aged children, after-school programs for middle and high schoolers, a food pantry, and services for senior citizens.

Former Head of the Upper School Sister Rosemary “Wickie” Sheehan began the tradition of donating toys in 1991 as she believes in the importance of giving back to the community.  In the years since then, Mrs. Bader, in conjunction with the Community Service Club, continues the bond between Sacred Heart and the Carver Center. 

Sister Sheehan served as the Head of the Upper School for twenty-two years, from 1965 to 1987.  Sister Sheehan later returned to Sacred Heart Greenwich and became the school’s Director of Outreach after working at the Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton, New Jersey.  Under her new position at Sacred Heart, Sister Sheehan began relations with the Carver Center, according to

Sister Sheehan gave the Carver Center children the opportunity to come to Sacred Heart on Tuesdays and Saturdays to further their educations and have access to the school’s facilities.  This also provides an opportunity for the Sacred Heart students and faculty to give back to the Carver Center throughout the school year.  The SASH program has continued for over 25 years as a result of Sister Sheehan’s legacy and inspiration to help the less privileged, according to 

“We have a long history with Carver Center,” Mrs. Bader said.  “It started with Sister “Wickie” Sheehan who spearheaded our connection to Carver.  Every December we welcome the students from Carver Center to Sacred Heart where we sing carols, give gifts, and experience the true meaning of Christmas.” 

The 2017-18 Community Service club heads and members posing with children from the Carver Center’s Head Start program after giving them their gifts. Courtesy of Rachel Zurheide

On the last day of school before Christmas break, members of the Community Service Club give presents, that Upper School students have collected, to the Carver Center children in person. The children also have the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and take a photo.  

Seniors Olivia Batal, Lorraine Rinaldi, and Maggie Shea are the club heads of the Community Service Club.  Olivia discussed how rewarding the experience is each year when she and the other Community Service club heads present the gifts to the children.

“The most meaningful part is definitely when Lorraine, Maggie, and I are ‘elves’ for a day and hand out presents to the kids,” Olivia said.  “They always look so happy and excited; I honestly can’t put into words how great it feels.”

Olivia also talked about why the club heads want to continue this celebrated tradition with the Carver Center children.

“I want this tradition to be continued because I believe that it impacts the kids,” Olivia said. “Although Christmas is not all about presents, I still think receiving that one present as a kid becomes so memorable and really symbolizes the spirit of giving back to others.”

Featured Image by Natalie Dosmond ’21