By Jon King /

A weeklong friendly rivalry between classrooms has turned into a big win in the fight against homelessness, as students at St. Patrick School in Brighton raised more than $10,000 for the Severe Weather Network, an organization that shelters homeless adults in Livingston County.

As part of the celebration of Catholic Schools Week, the students were challenged to “Penny Wars” - in which each grade collected spare change in a jar outside the classroom. In addition to earning points by filling up their own jars with coins, students could strategically use paper money to “sabotage” other classrooms to deduct points from their total. That competition resulted in more than $8,500 in donations from the junior kindergarten through 8th-grade classes, with the school’s Christian Service Committee adding in another $2000 to bring the total to $10,539.73.

St. Patrick School Principal Carley Dunphey said they were “incredibly proud of the generosity of our children, their families, and our school community, and we pray that the funds will help alleviate the suffering of those who are homeless during these exceptionally challenging times.”

The Severe Weather Network partners with community organizations, agencies, and faith communities to provide emergency, overnight refuge during the winter months for people experiencing homelessness in Livingston County. It also connects individuals to community action agencies committed to providing the services necessary to assist homeless individuals with the transition into affordable housing. Because of the pandemic, the normal congregate shelter could not be used, and the Severe Weather Network has partnered with a local hotel to provide emergency sheltering. It’s estimated that the funds raised by St. Patrick School will allow the organization to provide up to 210 additional nights of housing.

The number of homeless adults seeking shelter this season is expected to be significantly higher given the pandemic, current unemployment rate, and increase in rental evictions. Livingston County currently has no designated permanent homeless shelter and also has a lack of affordable housing.