A unique check presentation took place Wednesday, not in a board room or corporate office but in a fifth grade classroom at St. Raymond School in Mount Prospect. At the end of their school day, the students proudly presented Don Grossnickle with a check for nearly $10,000.

Don Grossnickle of the MAAPF Foundation talks to St. Raymond fifth graders.

“It’s one of the happiest days of my deacon life,” said Grossnickle who is an ordained deacon serving Our Lady of the Wayside Parish.

Grossnickle built his career in education, starting out at Palatine High School and eventually serving as Director of Instruction and Curriculum at Addison Trail High School. And while he still serves as a substitute teacher occasionally, his real passion lies in the medical advancements he and others are bringing to the mothers and babies in rural Uganda.

Back in 2013, Grossnickle started the MicroFinance Alliance Africa Projects Foundation, or MAAPF. Its mission is to build alliances with community members — including local parishes, healthcare providers and micro-business partners — to fund start-up micro-businesses to generate income that pays for medicine and treatment for sick and poor mothers and children in Uganda.

St. Raymond Parish has raised money for the foundation since 2017, when they drew enough donations to start a pig farm as a sustainable business to raise money for medical care. This spring, its fifth graders took up the cause. They wrote persuasive letters to Principal Mary Eileen Ward — who approved the campaign — they visited each classroom in the school, made posters to hang throughout the school and showed them a video made by one of their parents.

Mother Teo bathes an infant at St. Jude’s Clinic in Uganda.

“Our school community has roughly 500 people in it,” says fifth grade teacher Kim Ponicki, “so the children quickly did the math and suggested we could ask everyone to contribute $10 to start another farm.”

However, after setting out to raise $5,000 or enough to start one mission farm, the students nearly doubled their goal. Their commitment drew the support of the Rev. Jerry Jacobs, Pastor of St. Raymond Parish, who designated all of the funds collected on Holy Thursday to their cause.

Most recently, the fifth graders drew a $5,000 donation from an anonymous donor, thus helping them raise nearly $10,000 or enough to start two mission farms.

“It’s a miracle,” Grossnickle proclaims, adding that these young students are missionaries.

They also are learning a lot about Uganda and East Africa, and how more than 41% of its residents live in poverty, unable to afford basic services, including medical care.

“The students will be involved on the decision of which village clinics will partner with them going forward,” Grossnickle says. “It is likely St Philomena on the Uganda/Congo border in the Rwenzori Mountains, where the clinic will serve a community of lepers.

“The project taught many unforgettable lessons,” he adds, “about almsgiving, microfinance and how their investment will be saving lives actually positively changing the world.”



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