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home : features : people of faith

6/8/2017 9:00:00 AM
De Jesus family fosters giving spirit in children
The De Jesus family during the party at the Missionaries of Charity's
The De Jesus family during the party at the Missionaries of Charity's "Home of Joy" in the Philippines to celebrate Jarvin De Jesus' birthday.
Residents at the
Residents at the "Home of Joy" enjoy a special meal at the party.

To the De Jesus family of Christ the King parish in Westmere, Albany, giving and outreach are a way of life.

"The legacy, the gift of sharing, is what we want our kids to be able to learn how to do wholeheartedly. And it has to come naturally," said Jon De Jesus, who engages in a range of charitable acts locally and abroad with his wife, Dr. Arsyl De Jesus, and their children, Aliyah and Jarvin.

The De Jesus children have been taught to incorporate service into their everyday lives at school. The whole family donates new and like-new items to individuals in need through Christ the King parish. They also make regular trips to the Philippines, Mr. and Dr. De Jesus' native country, to work with underexposed charitable organizations.

Mr. and Dr. De Jesus strive for their children to be exposed to different cultures through outreach.

"We want them to be able to feel how blessed their lives are, and how much excess they have here," Mr. De Jesus told The Evangelist.

Some teens do volunteer work only as an obligation for school or in preparation for confirmation. Dr. De Jesus noted that she doesn't want that to be the case for her 18-year-old daughter, Aliyah, who graduates from the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany this year; or son Jarvin, age 12, a rising seventh-grader at St. Gregory's School in Loudonville.

Living Good News
"We really try to live out the Gospel by helping our brothers and sisters," explained Dr. De Jesus, a radiation oncologist who works in Albany and Amsterdam. In her work, she's mindful of caring for cancer patients not just physically, but also addressing their feelings at a vulnerable point in their lives.

"Right now, we're just trying to show our children the kind of way of life for them to follow. We don't want helping others to be a once-a-year thing, or only at a certain time of year or holiday, but as a way of life."

So far, this approach seems to be resonating with the children. At AHN, Aliyah was a member of the Junior Ladies of Charity, who do service work. During the summer, she volunteers for the American Cancer Society's HopeClub in Latham, spending time with cancer patients and playing the piano to entertain them.

In the fall, Aliyah plans to attend Colgate University as a biology/pre-med major.

At St. Gregory's School, Jarvin is a member of the Knights' Society, a service program where students participate in school leadership roles and community service. Jarvin's work helped him rise through the ranks from a page to a knight by sixth grade.

Parish experience
Kathy Kavanaugh, pastoral care coordinator at Christ the King parish, said she knows she can count on the De Jesus family to respond to calls for donations. Whenever she asks for a specific item, she said, "Jon will come up to me after church and say, 'Kathy, I'll go out and buy it.'"

Ms. Kavanaugh recalled one instance when Mr. De Jesus and a friend from work used their lunch hour to deliver a heavy item and then returned to work. Aliyah also donates her favorite clothes to people in need on an ongoing basis. Ms. Kavanaugh called the family "remarkable.

"They're always smiling; they're always together," she said. "It's just amazing to me the bond that appears to be between all of them."

Mr. and Dr. De Jesus offered to anonymously pay for a young Burmese refugee woman living in the Albany area to take nursing courses at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. It hasn't worked out yet because she's still learning English, but they remain hopeful.

Mr. De Jesus, who owns many businesses, remarked that, "if she graduates from this course, the family is going to get better. We want them to have a better life, and we can be a part of that."

Overseas aid
Helping people in the Philippines, where Mr. and Dr. De Jesus' parents and other relatives still live, is also crucial to the De Jesus'. For Jarvin's 11th birthday, he and his family had a catered party at a Missionaries of Charity center in the Philippines founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata. The center houses sick and neglected children and elderly persons.

Jarvin said he enjoyed his untraditional birthday party -- even sharing presents with kids at the home. He's had a giving spirit since he was three or four years old and would tuck away shoes and toys he no longer used in his closet, telling his mother that they were for poor children.

"Doing charity makes me feel really good," he says. "I liked when I had my birthday there. I basically got to help feed the children. I got to play with them. We brought a magician."

Aliyah had a particularly meaningful connection with a small boy during their visit to the center. She cried as she described it: "He ran out of the home and ran up to me and gave me a hug. And he didn't have to say anything; he just looked at me. That basically just proves that everything I'm doing is worth it."

Keep on giving
The family will return to the Philippines in a few weeks to work at an orphanage. They're already making trips to Sam's Club to buy bulk items like clothing, baby wipes and baby shampoo.

"The more you are able to give of yourself and all of the blessings that are given to you, the more that it comes back to you tenfold," Dr. De Jesus told The Evangelist. "The joy, the happiness, it fills your heart."

"What we're doing is just a small speck on Earth - but, hey, we're trying to raise the next generation to be able to serve and give whatever they can," Mr. De Jesus added. "We're hoping they'll be able to do the same when they become parents."

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