A “modern-day Santa” made a stop at St. Paul School in Barton Dec. 14, but he didn’t deliver a big bag of toys to the 78 children in pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
Rather, he gave their school a big check: $60,000.
“I’ve been fortunate, and I give back to people who need it,” said developer and philanthropist Antonio Pomerleau after giving an oversized presentation check to St. Paul’s Principal Joanne Beloin and Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish that includes St. Paul Church in Barton.
Pomerleau was like a “modern-day Santa,” Beloin said. He “exuded a love of children,” she added, gesturing to make a connection to a picture of a happy Jesus with children. “His roots are here, and he is very tenderhearted about what Catholic education means to his family.”
Pomerleau’s brother and sister attended St. Paul School; the family moved to Newport in 1927 where he attended the former Sacred Heart School.
Now a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Burlington, the 99-year-old businessman made his donation as part of the school’s celebration of its 120th anniversary.
Earlier this year, a campaign began to raise $120 from each of 120 donors, and when Pomerleau learned of the fundraiser – which accepts donations of all amounts -- he pledged to match what was raised.
As of mid December, St. Paul’s had received about 90 of the specific $120 gifts.
Funds raised from the anniversary campaign will be used for the school’s endowment, scholarships, facilities, an outside play space, general programs and technology upgrades.
“The school thrives because of all the gifts we receive in time, talent, money and prayers,” Father Naples said, noting that Pomerleau’s donation was “notably the largest.”
Because of his challenge, “more people have decided happily to donate gifts of varying amounts” from $1.50 to $20,000,” he noted, expressing gratitude for every contribution to the continuing campaign.
“I’m edified and happy to see this position [Pomerleau] has as a donor where he gives out of generosity and gratitude, and he is conscious as a Catholic of the Lord’s goodness which enables him to do that and other people to do the work that he contributes to,” Father Naples said. “He uses his riches to serve the Kingdom of God.”
During his 30-minute visit to the school, Pomerleau greeted students in the cafeteria, listened to a song they sang for him, presented the check and posed for photographs.
He told the children to be diligent and never give up. He was not from a wealthy family and had to work hard; now he is able to contribute to various charities so he does. “I’ve had a lot of success in my life and just passed it on. You can’t take it with you,” he said after the presentation.
Pomerleau was pleased with the school. “I had no idea Barton had a [Catholic] school half as good as that,” he enthused. He was impressed with the children’s polite behavior, the cleanliness of the school and the kind way the children are treated.
Beloin said enrollment is growing at the school, which has 78 students – up 10 from last year. The next graduating class – with 15 members – will be the largest in recent history.
Teachers have a combined total of 250 years of teaching experience; she described them as knowledgeable, experienced, wise and loving. “They want to be here,” she said. “Great things are happening here.”
The principal – who acknowledged all the contributions the parish makes to the school -- hopes the momentum the 120th anniversary campaign has created will continue to ensure quality education in this rural area of Vermont.
Donations can be sent to St. Paul School, 54 Eastern Ave, Barton, VT 05822.
- Published in Schools