With all of the commotion surrounding Christmas, the gift lists with names yet to be crossed off and family events to attend, it is sometimes easy to forget that the holidays are a "Season of Giving."
For those who would like to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by donating time and resources to the less fortunate, there are many ways to do so.
In addition to helping those in need, donating can also be a very rewarding experience for the donor.
There are many ways to give back to the community this Christmas, whether you’re looking to donate money, gifts or time.
Adopt or foster a pet
The newly constructed St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter, located at 921 Rue La Cannes in Luling, is teeming with pets who are ready to be adopted.
Humane Society president Jackie Boudreaux said that adopting a pet can be a very fulfilling experience.
"Pets are lifelong companions and very much want to be a part of a family," Boudreaux said. "Pets can be there in some of your best moments because the one thing a pet gives unconditionally is love. A dog, cat or whatever it is, they will love you."
For those who are looking to surprise their little ones, significant others or seniors with a pet this holiday, you are encouraged to take your loved one to the shelter, not gift them a pet.
"The advice we always like to give is a pet is not a gift. It is to become a member of one’s family," Boudreaux said. "Therefore, the Humane Society does not recommend giving a pet to a loved one. The person you are hoping to give a pet to, bring them in and let them choose for themselves."
For those who are unsure about making a life-long commitment to a pet, but still want to help, there are plenty of pets in need of a temporary foster home.
Animal Control has many pets that are available for fostering right now and would love a nice home to stay in for the holidays.
Also, dogs that are unaccustomed to humans or other animals can find a new life through foster care.
Fostering a pet is free and only requires filling out some paperwork.
The shelter provides foster families with some food, gets the animal up-to-date on shots and vaccinations, and families bring the pet in for regular check-ups.
The foster care only lasts until the animal is socialized, which can take as little as a week or as long as a year or two, depending on how long the foster parent wants to put into the program.
Boudreaux said providing an animal a home is the best gift one can give.
"We always say, ‘Save a life, adopt a pet,’" Boudreaux said. "For all those who come and adopt, we are forever grateful. Tell your friends, tell your family, this stuff is so good."
For those who would like to help the mission of the Humane Society, but cannot take on an animal, Boudreaux said donations are also needed.
"All donations are sincerely appreciated as it helps to cover the Humane Society costs to prepare that animal for adoption," Boudreaux said. "That’s one of our biggest challenges is raising the funding."
If you would like to make a donation to the St. Charles Parish Humane Society you can do so by mailing your donation in to P.O. Box 1331, Luling, LA 70070 or calling (985) 783-5010.
Volunteer at a nursing home
Betty Jackson, activities director with Luling Living Center, said that volunteering at a nursing home can be a rewarding way to make some of the St. Charles Parish residents who need it most feel special during the holiday season.
"These people they love children, they love to talk to people and just have people come visit them," Jackson said "They sometimes have families that can’t come and visit."
Nursing home volunteers mainly help with activities, read to residents or just talk to those who live at the facility.
"They see the staff who works here every day so it is really special when someone from the community interacts with them," Jackson said.
Jackson said nursing home residents really respond to children.
"When kids come by you can see the difference in their eyes," Jackson said.
To volunteer, you can call a local nursing home to set up an appointment. To make a donation, call for a list of what is needed.
The Luling Living Center can be reached at (985) 785-8271 and Ormond Nursing and Care Center can be reached at (985) 764-1793.
Feed and provide goods for the homeless
Another way to help others during the holidays is to volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
Louis Barron, volunteer coordinator with the New Orleans Mission, said his organization feeds and clothes the homeless and provides emergency shelter and job placement assistance.
"To me, giving through the holidays is just a great way to be helping your brothers and sisters and helping people out," Barron said.
The Mission is hosting a Christmas party on Dec. 22 this year and is seeking volunteers to serve food, greet people and pass out toys.
Barron said setting the example of volunteering with the less fortunate can be most rewarding for children.
"It especially shows the youth that giving back is great, responsible and a great effort to give back to the community," Barron said. "It shows them that there are people out there less fortunate than us. Even though we may have our problems, there are people out there that need our help more."
For those who would rather take a more hands off approach, the mission is currently seeking donations of toys, paper plates, cutlery packs, paper cups, food, shampoo, soap, deodorant, razors, feminine hygiene products and other personal items.
Donations can be made in person at the Mission located at 1130-40 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans. Drop-off donations are taken at the side entrance on Clio St.
In addition to donating goods, monetary donations are welcome as well. Checks can be made out to the New Orleans Mission and sent to 1129 Baronne St., New Orleans, LA 70113.
Those interested in volunteering at the mission or donating can call Barron at (504) 331-5904.
To find other homeless shelters or soup kitchens to volunteer at in the community, visit the Louisiana Department of Social Services Web site at www.dss.state.la.us.
Donate to the elderly
The holidays can be a hard time of year for some elderly people, but the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) runs special programs for those who may not have a lot of support.
One way that the RSVP helps is by delivering gift packages to seniors throughout the parish.
Fay Caire, Director of RSVP, said in conjunction with Valero the group runs a program every year to reach seniors at Christmas time.
"Most of these people don’t have anybody. This way they know somebody is thinking about them at Christmas and it makes them feel special," Caire said. "We send the gifts to the home-bound seniors. The children from R.K. Smith will wrap them and give them Christmas cards so they know someone is thinking about them for Christmas."
To donate a gift or make a monetary donation, contact RSVP at (985) 783-8097.
Let the troops know
that you care
There are many service members from Louisiana who are deployed or will soon be deployed, many of which will be missing the holidays with their families.
Parishioners can show these men and women that they care through a program called Soldiers’ Angels.
Soldiers’ Angels is a non-profit organization providing aid to the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, their families and veterans.
Hundreds of thousands of care packages have been sent out through this program.
Besides providing care packages and first aid supplies, Soldiers’ Angels has teamed up with the Department of Defense to provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptops to severely-wounded service members and to provide flights to soldiers on leave or in emergency situations.
Those who wish to contribute can do so by visiting www.soldiersangels.org or contacting the troop adoption coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Items for veterans, families or soldiers can also be mailed to Soldiers’ Angels at 1792 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104.