As Christmas approaches once again and families scramble to fulfill gift lists, wrap presents and prepare for that perfect dinner, sometimes we can lose sight of the deeper meaning of the season.
The St. Charles Parish community is full of plenty of opportunities for those seeking to celebrate the holidays by giving back to those who need it most. After all, those who donate both time and money for the betterment of lives of others receive something intangible in return.
Visit a local nursing home
Local nursing homes are great places to visit during the holiday season.
Trudy Lopez, activities director at Ashton Manor, said nursing home residents especially like to visit with area children.
Volunteers are sought to sing songs, show off talents, help with arts and crafts, assist in scrapbooking and lead instructional and educational activities.
“Interaction between our seniors and students is a really good relationship because they love the attention they get from the students,” she said. “The students are forming these relationships and are learning a lot from them because these are people in their 90s, so they have a lot of stories for them.”
In addition, parties are held once a month for residents including one this month for Christmas.
“We need young kids to serve drinks, bring plates, take the plates off the table and bring the desserts out. Kind of more food oriented,” she said. “On the flip side, any talents, if they play instruments or they have something interesting like a show and tell kind of thing, we would love to have that.”
However, Lopez said the most important thing visitors and volunteers can do is bring a snack and just sit and talk.“Mostly they like the one-on-one conversations,” she said.
To visit or volunteer at a local nursing home you can call to set up an appointment. To make a donation to needy residents, call for a list of what is needed.
Those interested in helping out at Ashton Manor can do so by calling Libby or Trudy at (985) 785-8288.
In addition, Luling Living Center can be reached at (985) 785-8271 and Ormond Nursing and Care Center can be reached at (985) 764-1793.
Write to the incarcerated
The Humble Hearts Association, based out of Life Fellowship Community Church in Bayou Gauche, is providing Christmas cards, letters and prayer lists to inmates across the country.
Donna Miller, founder of Humble Hearts, said it is the organization’s mission to bring a little of the Christmas spirit to those who are imprisoned.
“Jesus went after the lost, he didn’t go after the middle class. That’s what we are really supposed to be doing. We are supposed to be humble and if everybody helped each other this world would be better,” she said.
This year Humble Hearts has already sent out over 300 Christmas cards, but Miller said inmates would be happy to hear from others in the outside world.
“If they got a Christmas card from people other than me it would just light up their world,” she said. “Maybe just that little bit of showing them love will make them think in the future that they don’t have to spend another Christmas in jail.”
For those who would like to reach out to inmates, but want to remain anonymous they can do so by using their first name only or a pseudonym and Humble Hearts’ return address.
If you would like to get involved with Humble Hearts Miller can be reached at (714) 348-1307, on Facebook at Humble Hearts Association or by mail at P.O. Box 1475, Paradis, LA 70080.Volunteer with the developmentally disabledThe Arc of St. Charles offers many opportunities for those who would like to help the parish’s developmentally disabled population.
With 42 years of serving local residents with special needs and intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Arc strives to provide the best services possible to some of the parish’s neediest citizens.
The Arc can accommodate different schedules and seeks volunteers with unique talents and interests to help not just for the holidays, but throughout the rest of the year as well.
For more information on volunteer opportunities or how else you can help, call (985) 785-0971.
Donate toys to needy children
The Cheffen Wilson Milton Foundation holds an annual Toys for Tots toy drive where toys will be given out to 200 St. Charles Parish children. This year the event will take place at United Methodist Church in Destrehan on Sunday, Dec. 15.
“If you have a child that needs a toy for Christmas, please bring them out!” director Nina Cooper-Santa Maria said.
If you would like to make a donation in support of the Toys for Tots distribution program, call Cooper-Santa Maria at (504) 684-5412 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feed and clothe the homeless
A great way to help others during the holidays is to volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
For the past 14 years, the New Orleans Mission has fed and clothed the homeless as well as providing emergency shelter and job placement assistance.
This year the New Orleans Mission is taking on a special goal by hoping to raise $300,000 to increase the number of beds for homeless women from 16 to 38.
The Mission has already raised $50,000 of its $300,000 goal, but still needs help.
The project will convert administrative space in the New Orleans Mission building on Baronne Street into bedrooms.However, for the holidays the mission has plenty of opportunities for potential volunteers, including an annual Christmas party for which they are seeking volunteers to serve food, greet people and pass out toys.
For those who would rather donate goods, the mission is always 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.
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 should call (504) 331-5904.
Show the troops you care
Many service members from Louisiana are currently deployed across the world and many of our soldiers will be separated from their family and friends for the holidays.
A program called Soldiers’ Angels matches up those interested in making a difference in the lives of service members as well as their families and veterans over the holidays. Through the program, hundreds of thousands of care packages have already been sent to all branches of the military.
In a partnership with the Department of Defense, Soldiers’ Angels also provides specially designed laptops to severely wounded service members and provides flights to soldiers on leave or in emergency situations.
Visit www.soldiersangels.org to donate or contact the troop adoption coordinator at email@example.com.Items for veterans, families or soldiers can also be mailed to Soldiers’ Angels at 1792 E. Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104.
Provide gifts to the elderly
Particularly for the elderly, the holidays can be a hard time of year. In order to alleviate this, the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) runs special programs for local senior citizens who may not have much community support.
Each year, RSVP delivers gift packages to seniors throughout the parish.
In conjunction with Valero, RSVP runs a program every year to reach seniors at Christmas time.
Through the program, home bound seniors receive gifts wrapped by local school children and accompanied by Christmas cards.
To donate a gift or make a monetary donation, contact RSVP at (985) 783-8097.
Give a pet a home
Humane Society officials said providing an animal a home is the best gift one can give.
The 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 adopting a pet can be a very fulfilling experience.
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 and not gift them a pet.
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.
Fostering a pet is free and only requires filling out some paperwork.
For those who would like to help the mission of the Humane Society, but cannot take on an animal donations, are also needed.
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.