Sophomore Hailey Fesai began the school year with a vision to help the community. In her philanthropic club, Country Day Cares, students earn community service hours and give back.

Fesai said she decided to start the club over the summer while interning at a camp for children with mental conditions or who are undergoing cancer treatment.

“I just woke up one morning (thinking) I should do this community service club,” she said.

At first, Fesai said she wasn’t sure what to call the club. She credited her mother for coining the name Country Day Cares.

Fesai has done community service in the past and said she wondered why Country Day didn’t have a club dedicated to it. She approached head of high school Brooke Wells, who said he thought it was “a great idea.”

The club began with Fesai and a few friends and grew through announcements at morning meetings. Currently, the club has a dozen members, eight of whom are sophomores.

“I’m really happy with how much it’s grown,” she said. “I think (we have) a great group of people willing to help the community, not just for service hours, but because they actually want to. That’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Country Day Cares does community service on campus and with local nonprofits.

On campus, the club helps with a variety of activities, such as the annual Turkey Drive. On Nov. 21, Fesai and sophomore Vanessa Escobar dressed in turkey costumes and helped gather frozen turkeys at the curb with the fourth grade class.

“Anything service-related, my club should be there,” Fesai said.

The first organization outside of campus it helped was the Front Street Animal Shelter (2127 Front St.). Fesai and club members Charlie Acquisto, a junior, and Tina Huang, a sophomore, visited the animal shelter on Dec. 1.

They spent three hours at the shelter cleaning cat kennels, mopping and sweeping floors and washing animal food bowls and toys, according to Fesai. She said she was satisfied with the visit. 

“We had lots of fun, and the people that work there were really pleased with us and could not stop saying ‘Thank you,’” Fesai said. “At the end, we got to hold kittens, which was very rewarding and so heartwarming.”

The club plans to offer help to other nonprofits such as WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment, 1900 K St. #200) and the Mustard Seed School (1321 N. C St.), a free, private school for children ages 3 through 15 connected to Loaves and Fishes, which provides food and shelter.

Fesai said the club plans to visit Hearts Landing Ranch (8902 Quail Lane, Granite Bay) next. The website says it provides “healthy activities and opportunities for youth,” and Fesai said she knows its owner.

Fesai has worked with multiple teachers on the club, so it doesn’t have an official adviser. Along with the initial approval and support from Wells, she has gathered ideas from Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo. Fesai added that Portillo mentioned she had a similar experience in high school with Key Club, a service program for high school students.

Middle and high school librarian Joanne Melinson also has been working alongside Fesai on the Dyer-Kelly Elementary School food drive, which Fesai said was Melinson’s idea.

Due to conflicting schedules, the club meets only once or twice a month. Most communication is done by text messaging, according to Fesai.

Sophomore Lilah Shorey joined the club as a friend of Fesai seeking community service hours.

Shorey said she likes how club members are “so nice and want to help people out.”

Acquisto joined to help the community and get hours. He said the club is fun, and he encourages others to join.

“I think people will feel good about helping out,” he said. “Plus, you get to meet new people and get some hours in.”

Wells sees a lot of potential in the club. 

“Years ago, Country Day had a phrase: ‘the habit of helping,’” Wells said. “We don’t use (that phrase) as much anymore, but that idea of service to others is critical.”

—By Ethan Monasa

Originally published in the Dec. 17 edition of the Octagon.

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