Joliet Catholic Academy’s Key Club recognized for community service

Zach Pekol: ‘It showed us our hard work can pay off long afterward’

Joliet Catholic Academy students (from left) Andy Munoz, Jackie Stary, Claire Blotnik, Darian Arteaga, Nathan Novak, Lyndsay Black and Alondra Espino make holiday cards during  the JCA Key Club's first Keymas program, which took placed over 12 days in December 2022.

Most people are familiar with the “12 Day of Christmas.”

Perhaps that’s why members of Joliet Catholic’s Academy’s Key Club used that concept as a springboard for its Keymas project in December. JCA’s Key Club recently was recognized at the state level in its division for the best single service project.

Key Club International is a service organization for high school students and a branch of Kiwanis International. The JCA Key Club is part of the Illinois-Eastern Iowa Key Club.

In addition, JCA senior Zach Pekol was nominated for the Distinguished President award, and JCA senior Luke Pekol was named Distinguished Vice President of the year.

JCA senior and member of the JCA Key Club Luke Pekol was named distinguished Vice President of the year in the llinois-Eastern Iowa Key Club.

To show the effect of Keymas on the JCA and greater community, the Pekol brothers wrote a 27-page report embedded with photos of the 12 service projects the club completed in 12 days in December and then submitted the report to their division.

Karlyn Budz, the club’s moderator, said JCA’s Key Club will now be nominated for the single service award at the international convention in July. But whether they win or not is irrelevant to Budz.

“We got to affect all these different people’s lives,” Budz said. “That is amazing to me.”

Community service is extremely important to Budz. She said her mother, Karla Budz, a Girl Scout leader when Karlyn was growing up, instilled the sense of enthusiastic service in her.

Karlyn, a former JCA Key Club member, said she strives to instill that in JCA Key Club members today.

“Life is hard for everyone,” she said. “But if you’re able to take just a little part of yourself and give it to someone else, I think it helps to create a better world around you.”

“If you’re able to take just a little part of yourself and give it to someone else, I think it helps to create a better world around you.”

—  Karlyn Budz, JCA Key Club moderator and former club member

Zach and Luke Pekol said they were introduced to community service when they were students at Troy Middle School and part of the school’s Lead Club. Through that club, they packed food for Feed My Starving Children and taught nursing home residents how to use iPads.

Last year, Zach and Luke Pekol joined JCA’s Key Club. And then this year, while helping out at a local food bank, the brothers saw the depth of need in the community.

That realization led the Key Club to develop the Keymas program.

Although the recognition at the state level is nice, they said they feel that their win is the community’s win, since so many people benefited from their efforts.

“It showed us our hard work can pay off long afterward,” Zach Pekol said.

They’re hoping to make Keymas an annual tradition at Joliet Catholic Academy. Zach and Luke Pekol said they feel students need to know that even small acts of service have positive effects.

“As long as you do something when you can, where you can, you can make a difference in somebody’s life,” Luke Pekol said.

The JCA Key Club executive board members are Zach Pekol, Luke Pekol, Marissa Corsi, Luke Gould, Justin Stockman and Carter Holbrook.

Highlights of Joliet Catholic Academy’s Keymas program

Joliet Catholic Academy students, from left, Ella Papineau, Cayla Czerak, Elena Czerkies, and Kylee Vercelote make ornaments as part of JCA Key Club's first Keymas program, which took placed over 12 days in December 2022.

Day 1: Students were encouraged to make two cards with joyful phrases for nursing home residents in need. Supplies were provided.

Day 2: Partnered with JCA’s Big Buddies Little Buddies Club to make 15 tie blankets for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Joliet.

Day 3: Partnered with JCA’s wildlife club to collect pinecones and turn them into reindeer ornaments for residents at Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet.

Day 4: Made school supply packs for two area schools.

Day 5: Raised money for Will County Habitat for Humanity by leaving decorated cards at homes that were decorated for Christmas.

Day 6: Almost 200 toys were collected for Toys for Tots.

Day 7: Partnered with Joliet Catholic Academy’s Chapter of Human Rights Club to create free speech squares with appropriate messages, which were left on lockers throughout the school to help students feel included and safe.

Day 8: Partnered with JCA’s chapter of the National Art Honor Society to decorate wooden ornaments with markers to bring holiday cheer to clients at Guardian Angel Community Services in Joliet.

Day 9: Created holiday posters and cards reflecting multiple languages and traditions to celebrate as many cultures and holidays as possible. Partnered with JCA’s Accepting Cultural and Diversity Club, German Club and American Sign Language Club.

Day 10: Held a book drive for the Spanish Community Center’s new library.

Day 11: Made baked goods and cards for JCA staff in appreciation of all their hard work.

Day 12: Key Club executive board members and moderator made and distributed 60 special ornaments for Key Club members in recognition of their commitment to service.